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Daniel Pešta (born 1 May 1959) is a Czech multimedia artist.
Pešta was born into the family of architect Antonín Pešta and psychologist Helena Montanelli-Peštová. After completing secondary school of civil engineering, he studied at the Václav Hollar College of Art in Prague. In the 1970s, the lack of freedom under communism weighed heavily on the beginning artist, and instead of continuing his studies he began to work independently. In the 1980s, Pešta was a part of the country's alternative culture scene; as an artist, he collaborated with various bands and later earned a living as a graphic designer. After 1989, he gradually left behind applied art and book illustrations. By the start of the new millennium, he was working exclusively with painting, from which he expanded into other forms of artistic expression. He spent two study trips in New York – one in 1998 and one in 2000.
Pešta has exhibited independently since 1992, and has participated in group exhibitions since 2000. He also participates in prestigious art projects and biennials, the most important of which was his project I was born in your bed, held at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
He is married to doctor, intellectual and leading philanthropist Dadja Altenburg-Kohl. His daughter Karolína Peštová-Matoušová (from his first marriage to Alena Peštová) studied art theory at Charles University in Prague.
Already in his youth, Pešta acquired an artistic dexterity and sense for material that he first applied in hyperrealistic painting. Nevertheless, he soon abandoned this approach in favor of a raw, expressive style more closely reflecting his nature. He found inspiration in the work of Jean Dubuffet and Joseph Beuys, as well as in primitive art and art brut – a style in which he created some 200 large-format paintings. In 1998, Pešta went on his first study trip to New York. This contact with the international art scene radically influenced his work. He started to make use of diverse materials, experimenting with wax, leather, textiles, or recycled photographs as part of naturalistic assemblages. Since 2004, his favorite technique has been clear epoxy resin, which he uses to cover older paintings and objects (for example, models of human embryos), thus conserving and devaluating them all at once. Over time, he expanded his range of artistic approaches to include object installations, video art, and purely conceptual endeavors.
In terms of subject matter, Pešta's works touch on the mysteries of human existence, the fragile nature of intimacy, and the role of man within society. His art often has a social or political subtext: He has worked with the homeless and blind people, and together with Eva Slámová organized theatre performances featuring handicapped actors. These projects resulted in the solo exhibitions White Zone and Sweet Home, the latter of which included a monograph published by Argo Publishers in 2006.
In his series Genetic Codes, which explores the predestination of fate, Pešta twisted photographs from family albums into tiny rolls and encased them in large resin tablets. Some of the snapshots are interlaced with a red string symbolizing blood, the endless continuity of generations, and the ineluctability of fate. We also encounter red string in several portrait photographs that he manipulates, perforates, paints on, and sews into the shape of muzzles and masks – symbols of social restriction.
In fact, the mask is another of Pešta's central motifs. He sees it as a symbol of pretense and anonymity, and also of being obsessed with one's own uniqueness and power. For instance, he has used latex casts of his face in several of his installations or works of video art (Narcissus). Pešta summarized these experiences in a series of solo projects and exhibitions entitled Levitation, which was accompanied by his second monograph.
In his conceptual project I was born in your bed (2013) – an exploration of Roma issues (i.e., how an individual's fate is predetermined by race) – Pešta sounds a warning bell. The accompanying video art projects in particular contributed to public discourse on the issue. These were presented at the Venice Biennale, at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague (Where is My Home?, 2013), in Gulag Museum in Moscow, in Riding Hall of the Castle Hill in Litomyšl and at Prague Crossroads in the Church of St. Anne (as part of the Gypsy Spirit project, 2013). They have also been included in a lecture program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and were presented in the media throughout the world.
Pešta's neon work entitled Apple of Sin (2010/2011) is located on the historical facade of the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabrück, Germany. His My Diary with Václav Havel (from the Genetic Codes series, 2008/2011) is a permanent part of the decoration at Prague Crossroads.
- 1990 Mexico City Biennale 1, award in the category of Political Poster, Mexico
- 2001 Florence Biennale 3, award in the category of new media, Florence, Italy
- 2002 Most Beautiful Book of the Year, award in the bibliophile category, Tomáš Hrách, Kašpárkův konec, Argo, Prague
- 2009 Most Beautiful Book of the Year, nomination in the catalogue category, Prague
- 2014 Now&After International Video Art Festival, Gulag Museum, Honorable Mention
- 1993 Concave Paintings, Karolinum, Prague
- 1995 Convex Paintings, Axiom Gallery, Cheltenham
- 1998 Daniel Pešta in Montserrat Gallery 1, New York
- 2000 Daniel Pešta in Montserrat Gallery 2, New York
- 2002 White Zone, Critics' Gallery, Prague
- 2005 Hot Doks 1 (with Václav Bláha), AusstellungsHalle, Frankfurt am Main
- 2005 Hot Doks 2 (with Václav Bláha), Galerie Palais am Festungsgraben Berlin
- 2007 Sweet Home, Akropolis, Prague
- 2010 Black Light, Galerie Maier-Hahn, Düsseldorf
- 2010 Levitation, Museum Montanelli, Prague
- 2011 Levitation, Felix-Nussbaum-Haus - Kulturgeschichtliches Museum, Osnabrück
- 2012 Gravitation Zero, Kunstmuseum Solingen, Solingen
- 2012 On Another Planet (In the name of love…) (with Suzanne Pastor), Artinbox gallery, Prague
- 2013 Kunst in der Katastrophe, Deutscher Bundestag, Berlin
- 2013 I was born in your bed, Sala del Camino, Venice
- 2007 Prague Biennale 3, Karlin Hall, Prague
- 2009 Prague Biennale 4, Karlin Hall, Prague
- 2010 Francisco de Goya – Vision of Symptoms and Hope, Kunstmuseum Solingen, Solingen
- 2011 The Art of Birth, Artinbox gallery, Prague
- 2012 Maria, Maria, Felix-Nussbaum-Haus - Kulturgeschichtliches Museum, Osnabrück
- 2012 Turn On, Tune In, Factory Art Gallery, Berlin
- 2012 It’s Liquid Identities. Videoart Festival, Scoletta di San Giovanni Battista e del SS. Sacramento in Bragora, Venice
- 2012 Dreaming, Artinbox, Prague
- 2013 London Art Biennale, Chelsea Old Town Hall, London
- 2013 Kdo lže, ten krade (Who Lies, Also Steals), Artinbox gallery, Prague
- 2013 Liquid Borders, International art festival of photography, video art and installation, Sala Bona Sforza, Castello Svevo, Bari
- 2013 Where is My Home?, DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague
- 2014 "Geny a Generace", Galerie Artinbox , Praha
- 2014 "Now&After" International Video Art Festival, Moscow
- 2014 "Pixels of Identities", Galeria de Arte Laura Haber, Buenos Aires
- 2014 Regensburg, Gegenüberstellung (with Markus Lüpertz, Dorota Nieznalska, etc.)
- 2014 Now & After International Video Art Festival, Alexandrinsky Theater in St.Petersburg
- 2014 Venice, Morphos, Sustainable Empire, Puzzels, Palazzo Albrizzi
- Vize 97: The Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation
- MuMo, Museum Montanelli, Prague
- Muzeum F. (sculptures for a baroque niche), Klatovy
- Felix-Nussbaum-Haus - Kulturgeschichtliches Museum, Osnabrück
- Kunstmuseum Solingen
- Michael Hayden Collection, Geelong, Australia
- University of British Columbia, Vancouver
- National Museum of Posters, Mexico City
- 2010 Daniel Pešta / Levitation', 2010, Nadace DrAK, Kulturgeschichtliches Museum Osnabrück – Felix-Nussbaum-Haus and Kunstmuseum Solingen, Praha, ISBN 978-3-938823-81-1
- 2006 Daniel Pešta / Sweet Home, 2006, Argo, Praha, ISBN 80-7203-797-8
- Daniel Pešta's website
- Museum Montanelli, I was born in your bed
- ČT Artmix 2013, Venice Biennale, in Czech
- Interview with Daniel Pešta, in English
- I was born in your bed, 2013, YouTube video
- Saatchi online
- Levitation, Artmagazin.eu
- Gravitation Zero, Solingen
- Celesteprize, 2011, in English
- DP: Narcissus, performance, 2010
- DP, Felix-Nussbaum-Haus, Levitation, in German
- DP, 2012, UndoNet
- DP, Suzanne Pastor: On Another Planet, 2012, Artinbox
- I was born in your bed in Litomyšl, in Czech
- Interview with DP, 2014, in Czech