Name: Zdenek Sykora
Date of Birth: February 3, 1920
Date of Death: July 12, 2011
Country of Origin: CZ
Born in 1920 in Louny, a town in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic, Zdeněk Sýkora is internationally recognized as a prominent experimental painter and artist. He began painting in 1940, studying art education and geometry at Charles University in Prague from 1945-47. His initial works, mainly landscapes, were influenced by Cubism and subsequently by Post-Impressionism. Many of his paintings were influenced by the landscape around his hometown of Louny, especially the Ohre river and valleys in the mountainous area around the village of Cítoliby, and these were featured in his first individual exhibition at the Prague Ales Hall in 1952.
Throughout the 1950s, he worked as an assistant to his former teachers Karel Lidický, Cyril Bouda, and Martin Salcman. By the early ’60s, he had transitioned to more abstract work, and was part of the Krizovatka (Crossroads) art movement, a group of artists who, “in opposition to Soviet-sanctioned Socialist Realism, oriented themselves toward the international avant-garde and its strategies of abstraction” (MOMA). Sýkora’s paintings of this period consisted of black-and-white geometric grid-like compositions, and included his celebrated Structure series.
In 1964, he collaborated with mathematician Jaroslav Blazek to create his first computer-assisted works, which began to attract increasing international attention. In 1965, he participated in an exhibition in Genoa, followed by other group shows in Germany and Yugoslavia. His successes led to his undertaking a number of decorative projects in Prague, including a ceramic wall on Jindrisska Street and a glass tile mosaic on the air vents of the Letná tunnel.
By the 1970s, Sýkora’s works had developed a characteristic mode of expression: groupings of interwoven, curved lines. Each facet of the compositions, from color, to length, thickness and direction of lines, was determined by a computer; the process set mathematical exactness in opposition to a quality of chance and randomness. In 1994, he participated in the landmark exhibition “Europa, Europa” in Bonn, which presented a comprehensive view of post-war modern and contemporary art from Central and Eastern Europe and was highly influential in the region. Additional exhibitions and purchases of his work cemented his presence on the international art scene, including the 2007 purchase of his “Lines No 24, The Last Judgement” by the Centre Pompidou.
In his final period, Sýkora produced some linear designs for architectural spaces. He passed away at his home in Louny in 2011, at the age of 91.