Rony Plesl presents a site-specific installation at La Biennale di Venezia
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Rony Plesl presents a site-specific installation at La Biennale di Venezia
The Collateral Event is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by curator Lucie Drdova, Michal Skoda, artist and director of the House of Art Ceske Budejovice, and Petr Borkovec, poet, translator and journalist. The catalogue will be published in Czech, English and Italian.

VENICE.- The House of Art Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic announced the exhibition Rony Plesl: Trees Grow from the Sky / Gli alberi crescono dal cielo as Collateral Event of the 59th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, now on view from through November 27, 2022.

Created by Czech artist and sculptor Rony Plesl, the site-specific installation will unveil four large-scale glass sculptures in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione in the Dorsoduro district with views of the Giudecca Canal. They are developed using an unprecedented and unique glass casting technology, allowing the creation of grand glass sculptures without any limitations. Curated by Lucie Drdova, Prague-based art historian, gallerist, and author, the exhibition coincides with the 2022 International Year of Glass as proclaimed by the United Nations – and thus presents a timely artistic and technological exploration of the material.

Plesl has been exploring the possibilities of the materiality of glass and glass sculpture for more than four decades. His sources of inspiration are deeply rooted in his fascination with geometry, the intimacy of the Italian Renaissance, and the architectural opulence of the Baroque. Plesl’s admiration for Caspar David Friedrich’s intense and emotional focus on nature his allegorical landscapes are reflected in this body of work. At the beginning of his career, he spent several formative years in Venice on the island of Murano, studying the material and learning the craft from Italian master glassmakers. In collaboration with glass professionals, he started to shift the perspective of glassmaking and its possibilities within contemporary art and for his own body of work.

As an expansion of the master craftsmen that follow Czech Republic’s centuries-old traditional crystal production, hailing from the regions of Bohemia since the late 16th century, distinguished for the quality and beauty that has come to characterize its ateliers, and the techniques passed on by them, the Vitrum Vivum glassmaking technology further revolutionizes this craft. The unique process consists in casting glass as if it were bronze, giving the artist complete artistic freedom over the creative process that can begin with models made of paper, plaster or even objects found in nature, which in the end become artefacts themselves. Developed over the last 12 years by Jiri Sin, Czech glass master and inventor, the Vitrum Vivum technology reveals a world of possibilities in the glassmaking field. Plesl’s Trees Grow from the Sky marks the world premiere of sculptures of this scale using this new groundbreaking full relief glass casting technology.

The installation concept was created by contemporary Czech architect Josef Pleskot and follows the proportions of the Renaissance architectural canon of symmetry and perspective. Four glass monoliths dominate the nave of the early Cinquecento church. Three pure crystal glass sculptures (600 kg and 205 x 75 cm each), characterized by the real imprint of an 80-year-old oak tree found in the woods of Northern Bohemia, are erected vertically in the centre of the space and mirror the rhythm of the columns of the church altars. The perfection of their bark is accentuated by the haptic character of the material, while the luminous and translucent surface invites the viewer to look inside, it encourages the interpretation of an imaginary journey -- exploring the true essence of things.

The crystal larger-than-life trunks also allude to the symbolics of the number three and to the Franciscan thesis of complementarity of nature and man. The fourth tree, located near the altar, symbolizes a spiritual and transcendent message of transformation delivered through an actual metamorphosis of the tree's bark into a human figure. Made of uranium glass and covered with a bas-relief of the bodies of Jesus Christ, it illuminates the space with a mysterious, revelatory light. This radioactive uranium technique was discovered in Bohemia during the Baroque period and gives the glass an incredible subterranean phosphorescent glow in a bright yellow-green color.

Trees Grow from the Sky explores the nature of human existence and the definition of humanity through a site-specific path that emphasizes man's introspective nature in a continuous metaphor with the glass as a living material. A spirit that reflects the theme of the 59th International Art Exhibition titled Il latte dei sogni / The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, which takes its name from Leonora Carrington's book — a call to self-transcendence, inviting one to re-envision life through the prism of the imagination, an invitation to embark on an imaginary journey through metamorphoses of the body, the conceptions of ourselves, and the definitions of humanity.

Plesl explains, “the overall concept of the exhibition addresses questions of human existence and definition of humanity, touching upon the relation of man and nature, and its multiple layers of meaning. The narrative revolves around a journey; around seeking our path in the world of today.”

Rony Plesl, leading Czech artist, sculptor, designer, and professor (1965, lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic), ranks among top internationally acknowledged artists in the field of glass sculpture. His unique oeuvre grows out of his deep knowledge of quality glassmaking and the technologies he employs in his original designs and primarily in his artistic work. He explores the possibilities of glass sculpture and deliberately approaches it as a distinctive medium, with respect for the work of his predecessors – Professor Libensky and others, who founded this relatively young discipline in the Czech Republic – while also respecting the history of the craft.

The monumentality of his work is enhanced by his use of a globally unique glass casting technology. The sense of detail and the precision grinding, typical of the Czech glassmaking school, are paramount in Plesl’s work, although they never supersede the conceptual ideas behind the art. It is yet another step towards the emancipation of the medium of glass sculpture; towards a unique definition of how far the limits of contemporary art can be pushed.

Since 2008, Rony Plesl is Head of the Studio of Glass at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. In 2017, he was appointed Professor of Design and Architecture. Artworks by Plesl are represented in public and private collections in the Czech Republic and internationally.

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