Showing posts with label Cafe Emporio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cafe Emporio. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celebrating 90 Years of Artist Zenděk Sýkora

On a tip from a sophisticated, handsome young Czech at the opening of the Pod Ball: Malí Urvi II exhibit now showing at DOX Contemporary Art Museum in Prague, I went to visit an art show at the Municipal Library Gallery in Prague to discover an artist new to me.

My friend said, "Zenděk Sýkora is probably the most important Czech painter alive right now, go see his show!" So off I went. Mr. Sýkora is 90 years old and the works assembled represented a retrospective of his life's work. When someone is 90 years old and this productive and vital, it gets my respect automatically, even before I saw his work. Then I also imagined what it's like being an artist during regimes when being an artist was suspect.

Mr. Sýkora was deeply inspired by nature as an artist.  One of the most intriguing first paintings in the exhibition is a very geometric gray work of art that is his representation of still, shimmering water.  It made me think about my own visual image of still, shimmering water.  I loved the idea of someone focusing that deeply on beauty we all know and producing something that challenges one§s own images.

His work from the 1960s and 1970s seems emblematic of those decades.  I can't put my finger on why, but it does.  It's very structured and geometric.  Throughout his career, Mr. Sýkora used mathematics and geometry to express the systems and randomness of nature. If you are at all drawn to those two things, I know you'd love his work.

From those structured works, he moved onto lineal paintings. He was among the first in the world to use a computer to help him develop the random numbers necessary for much of his work. The program notes (printed in English, thank you) said, "he was captured by the expressional power of a line rising on a boundary of the connection of two original elements." I didn't relate to the mathematical components of his work, yet I still found that all of his work uplifted my spirit.

Then I came across work of his that I already know and love.  My friend Pavel had introduced me to the beauty of these murals at the Cafe Emporio (now called the Cafe Elite) last year.  I love this tile mosaic!  Apparently, it was installed in a metro station at this spot on Jindřišská Street.  Now it is a cafe.  Why there is no longer a metro station there, I don't know. But the gorgeous tile mosaics remain.  Sýkora's art looks sublime on such a large scale!  In the show there was also two other pieces I would love to see in place: a linear installation at the air traffic control facility in Prague and geometric structured pieces covering Letná ventilation shafts.

The exhibit space is magnificent, and as a librarian, I envy the Municipal Library's space.  It's fantastic and world class.  Libraries in America usually don't have that amount of square footage available to mount shows of this scope.  It not only says something about the Library, it says something about the Czech people of the 1920s for their willing investment in their own art and culture.  One small suggestion I have for future shows is to include English subtitles on the video where the artist discusses his work.  Then the whole world can discover him! For beautiful photographs of the rooms filled with art, click on my title.

So... after looking at that gorgeous art do you need a little refreshment?  If so, then come with me! I'm heading over to the Grand Orient Cafe housed in the famous House of the Black Madonna designed by the master of Czech cubist architecture.  I want to enjoy the outdoor balcony.  Spring is bursting out of every windowbox.

My friend Pavel, a former demi-soloist for the National Ballet introduced me to this cafe too.

Fresh mint tea and the wonderful, totally-worth-the-calories Czech pastry věneček.  Ooh-la-la! Did you know you could make mint tea with just the leaves of fresh mint? I didn't know it was that simple.  Now I know.  My waiter is so divine it's like a joint celebration of the city, the view, the cuppa, and the pastry. It also helps that we are united in the knowledge that on this exact day we are both in the momentary center of the known universe: Prague, where the President of the United States of America and the President of Russia are meeting. My waiter most definitely could serve the King of England, cause that's what waiters, at least fictional waiters, do in the Czech Republic.

Hope you enjoyed the break.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pavel's Prague, Part I: Cafe Emporio

The number of inspiring cafes in Prague is literally overwhelming. I would love to see them all because they are as different in personality as people are. Some you come back to again and again because slipping into the booth is like being embraced with a familiar hug by someone who cares for you.

I love everything about the European coffee experience: from the strength of it's flavor and smell, the exquisitely foamed and expertly presented cappuccino, to the comfort of settling down with a friend in an interesting spot to enjoy caffeine and each other's company.

I have found wonderful places through friends. Among my favorites are the Cafe Imperial, the Cafe Louvre, Cafe Tobruk on St. Peter's Square, and 7th heaven around the corner from the Cafe Savoy (try the warm goat cheese toasts). I asked a friend with impeccable taste, Pavel Pisan, the ballet dancer, to show me his favorite cafe spots in Prague.

One of my very favorite things about Prague is that high culture is everywhere. I love high culture and believe that I know it fairly well. It's a whole higher level of appreciation and awareness though when you are a creator of it.

Pavel had previously shared with me tickets to see "Romeo and Juliet." I may know the story and the music. Pavel knows each of the characters, their moves, their presentation, how one should inhabit each personality. It's a level of knowledge I love listening too and learning from because it's beyond my aficionado status. I learn from Pavel every time I'm with him. And it's not just ballet. It's Czech culture, opera, and acting. I could go on and on.

Me and Pavel at Cafe Emporio that day

When my American girlfriends and I first met Pavel, we were a bit awestruck by his beauty. But then one of my cheeky friends nicknamed him 'David' reducing us to a fit of giggles and starting endless rounds of teasing this wonderful man who spreads sunshine wherever he goes. Pavel's smile is electric. His exuberance is part of his entrance. It grabs your attention and never lets go. Everyone looks up when Pavel enters a room because his joyful spirit emanates outward and lifts the mood of everyone present.

Pavel loves to use cafes for a moment of solitary relaxation - to enjoy the paper or a great meal. To think and people watch over a cup of espresso. He had three favorite cafes he thought I should see.

We decided to meet at Cafe Emporio
at Jindrisska 3 in Prague 1.

It's just off the intersection of
Vaclavska Namesti and Jindrisska.

Is there a better sight than a friends' big smile
through the window?

Behind the white leather banquette seating
was this intriguing wall of
chocolate color and eggshells

And an ultra-hip mural that predated the bar

Other cafe goers under the
metal strip chandelier
hanging from the second floor

Up on the second floor -
a view of the mod chair seating and wall.

Pavel says, "The eggshell wall has been refreshed. It used to have feathers amidst the eggshells. I was sensitive to the dust because I'm allergic. They redid the wall which is great because it keeps people excited to come."

A larger view of the mural
on the second floor

Pavel continued, "When I came here in 1995, this wasn't a cafe but the mosaic was here. They kept it. It's originally from the '60s." Does anyone know who the artist is? I would love to know more about it.

Later, I came back to this place when I was walking home with my flatmate from going to see a movie at Kino Svetozor. It's this wonderful art house cinema palace with movies from all over the world, a bar with tables to meet your friends before the movie, and a convenient location on Jindrisska just on the other side of Vaclavska Namesti from Cafe Emporio. I literally thought life can not get any more perfect than to go to an art cinema house in the middle of Prague, and walk on cobblestones four blocks to our apartment, with a contented nightcap at this magnificent spot on the way home. Life in Prague is so fabulous.

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