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JANA PALECKOVA

My work is about revitalizing forgotten memories, people, and places and giving them new life. These photos, once considered precious because of the memories which they conjured, have become discarded, finding their way into flea markets and thrift stores. The people in them are unknown to the sellers, and the stories associated with them have lapsed. I am not in control of the photos which l find, and the people I meet in

them. Hiding behind a pile of miscellaneous junk, a woman's portrait stares back at me. Her story becomes alive again even though I know nothing of her. The unexpected elements I add, much like the photographs that present themselves to me, are gifts. Flashes of inspiration are then executed quickly. With my alterations I pose the question: "Who are the keepers of our own stories, and memories, and how might they evolve after we are long gone?”

 

Jana Paleckova is a self-taught artist living in the Czech Rebublic. 

Jana Paleckova has been picking bones with the past. After rummaging through boxes of discarded vintage photographs in antique shops and flea markets, the 34-year-old Czech artist was intrigued and frustrated by the absence of any immediate context attached to such neglected images. The photos appeared riddled with lacunae; they were ciphers of histories at once preserved and unknown. Paleckova engaged in a bit of tongue-in-cheek necromancy with the orphaned photographs, teasing playful new narratives into the unwitting images. She develops a tug-o-war between the past and the present in the resulting works, treating them like artifacts deserving of preservation and as found objects ripe for use as raw material. Her recent works are presented by Fred.Giampietro Gallery this week at Outsider Art Fair in New York.

 

Layering fanciful, humorous imagery in color onto the surfaces of antique photographs of anonymous, largely decontextualized subjects, Paleckova’s oil-paint interventions blend seamlessly, if impertinently, into the original portraits. Her exuberant additions also supplement the photographs’ narratives; they augment and exaggerate rather than simply frame these found photographs. The original subjects of the portraits remain at odds with the visual addenda that encroach on them; at times, the intrusion of these new elements even appears to confuse the subjects. Rather than clarify the interpretation of these images stripped of context, her visual annotations—more suggestive hypertext than explanatory subtext—are so enigmatic that they tend to further muddle and fracture no matter what. This, however, seems to be the point: Paleckova’s work presents hybrid images that operate in a merry chorus of competing motifs, each inflating, exceeding, confounding, and complementing the other. Capitalizing on the absence of clear context or locations in the photographs, Paleckova works to underscore the ways in which images like these at once invite and resist revision or explanation, which is what ultimately makes them so enticing.

 

In a sense, these manipulated photographs are palimpsests that enliven the undertones of mortality that are often ascribed to aged photographic portraits. Portraiture, for Paleckova, is no longer understood as a death mask for a particular life, but rather as a visual space rife with potential, inviting creative license.

 

—Grace-Yvette Gemmell