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František Lesák
  • Artist (1943)

František Lesák, a Czech artist who has been based in Vienna since 1964, cut an original figure in the radical scene of the 1970s. His projects broach the theme of space, focusing on the language and forms of nature, and reveal a distinct interest in the psychology of perception (fuelled by the thinking of James J. Gibson and Merleau-Ponty). Through drawing, sculpture and performance, Lesák strives to create systems giving rise to novel spatial experiences and situations. He concentrates his attention on the notion of “surface”, that tiny interface which he turns into an essential aesthetic challenge, by way of the graphic study of geometric and colorimetric textures, by the use of camouflage objects, or by immersing his whole body in sand. The designer and architect Alessandro Mendini would reproduce several of his projects in Casabella between 1972 and 1974  (in particular a drawing of the Mimicry series on the magazine’s cover in 1974), and would thus contribute to linking Lesák’s oeuvre to radical architecture, because of its experimental and critical dimension.

Born in Prague in 1943, František Lesák settled in Vienna in 1964, where he studied at the University of Applied Arts. He took part in the booming art scene, especially by his participation in exhibitions at the Galerie Nächst st. Stephan in Vienna, as well as in the exhibitions Trigon 1973 and 1975 in Graz, which attracted the European avant-garde at that time. A professor at the School of Architecture in the Institute of Technology in Vienna from 1979 to 2003, Lesák has had his work shown in numerous solo exhibitions all over the world—Mangelgang Gallery (Groningen, 1973), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, 1977), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, 1980), Museum Moderner Kunst (Vienna, 1992), and the Nationalgalerie (Prague, 1997); there have also been several publications about his work. Featuring in the first book about radical architecture in 1974 (by Paola Navone and Bruno Orlandoni), his works were also shown at the Architectural Biennale in Venice in 1996, and in the international exhibition  Architecture Radicale (Villeurbanne, Cologne, Seville, 2000 to 2003).

Aurélien Vernant