by Ulrike Lorenz. Hirmer, dist. by University of Chicago Press, March, 2017. 175 p. ill. ISBN 9783777426877(h/c), $42.00.
Reviewed September 2017
Pravoslav Sovak has spent his life creating prints and collages through traditional and innovative methods. Sovak. Clear Vision[s] rightfully approaches this complex artist in many ways, including essays and an interview with the artist. The catalog is thorough and is ultimately a powerful and detailed catalogue raisonné of a complex and curious man. As explained in the notes accompanying the catalog, this publication serves as a continuation of sorts of Pravoslav Sovak: Zeitstriet Das graphische Werk, the German publication from 1994. The organization of the original 1994 catalog is cleaner and follows a more traditional format than the back-and-forth contents in the 2016 publication.
The words of Sovak himself create the strongest section, “Art as Life Process: Pravoslav Sovak in conversation with Anna Friedrichson.” This portion gives a rich and lively introduction to the artist himself. Sovak answers honestly and directly, giving a strong sense of his philosophy and ideas, saying, “Art begins where it’s impossible to describe things in words.”
There are some issues that may be noted, including some inconsistencies with editing and grammar, particularly regarding quotations. While some problems can be expected from any translation, several of the English sections read very obviously as such. While the focus is on works created from 1995-2016, there is great attention to the artist’s process over his lifetime and relevant works created before this time, almost to an excessive degree. For example, the work “Installation Imaginaire -- Dahlem 808,” 1992-1994 is mentioned several times in multiple essays, and yet is not included in this continuation of the catalog.
Sovak’s intense and wide-ranging works are captivating and beautifully depicted in this book. The large-scale images interspersed throughout the text allow for close study of the works. However, when compared to these images, the very small pictures comprising the catalog entries seem insufficient. There is also a fully blank page in the middle of the book which presents a missed opportunity.
This is recommended for collections with a focus on printmaking, watercolors, and/or collages. It would be useful to any scholar or student looking for more information on Sovak or for relevant information on his art and times. Also included are a biography, a selection of solo exhibitions and a bibliography. The book is well-constructed and sturdy. While there are problematic elements, this would certainly serve an art reference collection and provide a basic resource for the works of Pravoslav Sovak.