The Czech Design Resistance

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Warning symbols by František Stárek in "Vokno" magazine, c. 1985

In Russian, samizdat literally means “self-published,” but the term has richer associations than vanity presses and Xerox machines. In the pre-glasnost years, artists, writers, and intellectuals in the U.S.S.R. would circulate underground publications clandestinely, often using typewriters and carbon paper to reproduce them. In spite of the danger, or perhaps because of it, the work they created was revolutionary—just as much for its political content as for its mix of styles, which could swing from Surrealist collage to Otto Neurath–inflected symbols. Last week, the Czech Center of New York opened a show called “Samizdat: The Czech Art of Resistance, 1968-1989,” which collects 120 such works on paper, as well as recordings by political bands from the same era. The exhibition is up through January 12 and includes a few related events. Sadly, you’ve already missed the concert by Garáž, a hugely entertaining (judging from its YouTube footprint) New Wave band from Prague, but there’s still time to attend the Velvet Revolution party tonight. Or just enjoy this selection from the show.

Print from the book "Škola české grotesky" ("School of the Czech Grotesque"), edited by Josef Kroutvor, 1980

Czech lion in text

František Pavlíček, "Konecpartriarchátu" ("The End of Patriarchy"), 1988

Printo from the journal "SadoMaso," 1984

Print from "Srpnovánoc" ("August Night"), by František Lazecký, Czech Editions

Hand-printed cover for the Bohumil Hrabal novel "Životopis Trochu Jinak" ("A Slightly Different Biography"), VME, 1987

Inside title page of the Astrid Lindgrenová book "Bratři lví Srdce" ("The Brothers Lionheart"), 1982

Print from "School of the Czech Grotesque"