Jana Sterbak

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Jana Sterbak
Prague, Czechoslovakia
EducationVancouver School of Art,
University of British Columbia,
Concordia University
AwardsGovernor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts

Jana Sterbak (Born 1955) is a Canadian artist best known for her conceptual sculptures that are made about and in relation to the body.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Sterbak immigrated in 1968 to Canada as a teenager with her parents. She attended the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art and Design) in 1973-74, and the University of British Columbia in 1974-75 before moving to Montréal to complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1977 at Concordia University.

The intense Czech culture that Sterbak was surrounded by and continues to appreciate (for example the works of Kafka, Kundera and Čapek) as strong buttressing references in her ironic and often pessimistic artwork. Coming from this background "it is not surprising, then, that the theme of constraint, imposed from within and from without, should have become a major preoccupation in her work".[1]

Sterbak works with the theme of control in pieces such as Remote Control (1989). She created a large metal skirt on wheels that elevates the woman wearing it while its movement is directed by an electric controller held by the viewer. In a conversation with the curator Milena Kalinovska, Sterbak says:

"In a lot of my work one has to decide whether one is the controlling agent or being controlled, and to decide what are the pros and cons of both situations" (Nemiroff p. 47)

The surprising variety of materials used in Sterbak’s sculptures has a Dadaist spirit and is significant in expressing meaning through materials. The meat she used in Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic (1987) has emotional and symbolic value implying death in relation to the piece being worn as a dress by a woman. The network of relations among the materials defines what she calls ‘states of being’ between freedom and restraint. Her work has Surrealist affinities that acknowledge experiences of uncanny and unconscious desires that go beyond reason. She doubles the self in her art through objects that are worn on the body (like Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic (1987) )or suggest a presence, and they convey a sense of otherness through a psychic state of being.

Sterbak is a recipient of the 2012 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2018 Retrospéctive, MA. Musée d'Art, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada
  • 2017 Live Size, Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany
  • 2016 Live Size, Taxispalais, Kunsthalle Tirol, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 2013/14 Jana Sterbak Human condition: the limits of our freedom, Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milano
  • 2012 Back Home, Galerie Laroche/Joncas, Montréal, Qc
  • 2011 Planetarium, Musée Réattu, Arles, France
  • 2010 Through the eye of the other, Teatro La Fenice, Venezia
  • 2009 Waiting For High Water, Fonderie Darling, Montréal
  • 2009 Septentrionale, Raffaella Cortese, Milano
  • 2009 Waiting for High Water, Darling Foundry, Montréal,Qc
  • 2008 From Here to There, Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Rivière-du-Loup,
  • 2008 Seasons, Galerie Erna Hécey, Brussel
  • 2007 Dissolution, Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Qc
  • 2007 The Seasons, Galeria Toni Tàpies, Barcelona
  • 2006 Condition contrainte, Carré d’Art, Nîmes
  • 2006 Waiting For High Water, Centre Culturel Canadien, Paris
  • 2006 De la performance al vídeo, Artium, Vitoria-Gasteiz
  • 2006 About Winter, Galerie Erna Hécey, Brussel
  • 2006 From Here to There, Bozar. Centre for Fine Arts, Brussel
  • 2006 Raffaella Cortese Gallery, Milano
  • 2004 Jana Sterbak. Videoinstallations. Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense
  • 2004 Planetarium, Galeria Toni Tàpies, Barcelona
  • 2004 From here to there, Musée des Beaux Arts, Nantes
  • 2003 From here to there, Biennale di Venezia, Venezia
  • 2003 La Biennale di Venezia : 50th International Art Exhibition, Dreams & Conflicts — The Viewer's Dictatorship
  • 2002 Jana Sterbak, Malmö Konsthall, Mälmo; Haus der Kunst, München
  • 2002 Jana Sterbak, Barbara Gross Galerie, München
  • 2002 Jana Sterbak: Photopractice, Art Gallery of Subdury, Subdury
  • 2002 La lune à l’école, École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris
  • 2002 Pensare ad alta voce Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea, Università di Roma "La Sapienza", Rome
  • 2001 Jana Sterbak. Penser tout Aut./Thinking Out Loud, Galerie de l’UQAM, Université du Québec, Montréal
  • 2001 Dissolution, Galerie Herba Hécey, Luxembourg
  • 2001 Faradayurt, Galeria Toni Tàpies, Barcelona
  • 2000 Centre International de Recherche sur le Verre et les Arts plastiques (CIRVA), Marseille
  • 2000 Direccions, Centro Cultural de la Fundació «la Caixa» de Lleida, Lleida
  • 2000 Jana Sterbak, Erna Hecey, Luxembourg
  • 2000 Jana Sterbak, Galerie Barbara Gross, München
  • 2000 Jana Sterbak: Oasis (part II), The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphie, Penn., États-Unis, 2000.
  • 2000 Jana Sterbak. Penser tout haut = Jana Sterbak. Thinking Out Loud, Salle Alvin Hamilton, Ambassade du Canada, Beijing; The Loft, Beijing; Galerie de l'UQÀM, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal; Galerie L'Œuvre de l'autre, Pavillon des arts de l'UQÀC, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
  • 1999 Jana Sterbak: Early Work (part I), The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphie
  • 1998 Jana Sterbak, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
  • 1998 Galerie René Blouin, Montréal
  • 1998 Galeria Toni Tàpies- Edicions T, Barcelona
  • 1997 Jana Sterbak: Metamorphosis, David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence
  • 1996 Jana Sterbak: New Photoworks, Donald Young Gallery, Seattle
  • 1996 Trichotilomania III, Galerie René Blouin, Montréal
  • 1995 Jana Sterbak, Angles Gallery, Santa Monica
  • 1995 Jana Sterbak, Donald Young Gallery, Seattle
  • 1995 Jana Sterbak: Velleitas, Musée d'art moderne de Saint-Etienne; Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona; et 1996: Serpentine Gallery, London
  • 1994 Jana Sterbak: Déclaration, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
  • 1994 Jana Sterbak: Déclaration, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal
  • 1992 Jana Sterbak: Catacombs
  • 1993 I Want You to Feel the Way I Do, Fundació "la Caixa", Barcelona
  • 1993 Jana Sterbak, Louisiana, Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek
  • 1993 Jana Sterbak: Lénine rétréci, Galerie René Blouin, Montréal
  • 1992 Project Room, Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 1992 Galerie Crousel Robelin / BAMA, Paris
  • 1991 Jana Sterbak: Sisyphe, II, Galerie René Blouin, Montréal
  • 1991 JANA STERBAK : States of Being / Corps à corps, Musée des beaux arts du Canada, Ottawa; List Visual Arts Centre, Cambridge; 1992: Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Ohio; Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary, Alberta Alberta; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
  • 1990 Jana Sterbak, Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • 1990 Jana Sterbak, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
  • 1989 The Western Front, Vancouver
  • 1989 Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina
  • 1989 Galerie René Blouin, Montréal
  • 1988 The Power Plant, Toronto
  • 1987 The Ydessa Gallery, Toronto
  • 1987 Galerie René Blouin, Montréal
  • 1986 Jana Sterbak / Krzysztof Wodiczko, 49 eParallèle, Centre d'art contemporain canadien/49th Parallel, Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, New York; Nexus Gallery of Contemporary Art, Atlanta
  • 1985Ida Applebroog / Jana Sterbak, Glendon Gallery, Glendon College, Toronto
  • 1985 Jana Sterbak, The Ydessa Gallery, Toronto
  • 1982 Golem Objects as Sensations, Mercer Union, Toronto
  • 1981 How Things Stand Up, Main Exit, Vancouver
  • 1980 Jana Sterbak: Small Works, YYZ, Toronto
  • 1980 Travaux récents, Galerie Optica, Montréal
  • 1978 [Drawings], Pumps Art, Vancouver

Public collections[edit]

  • Caja Madrid, Madrid
  • Centre Georges-Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris
  • Fondation Canada-Chine, Montréal
  • Fonds National d’Art Contemporain (FNAC)
  • France Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier
  • France Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Corse, Corte
  • France Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Normandie, Sotteville-lès-Rouen
  • Fundació "la Caixa", Barcelona
  • MAC - galeries contemporaines des Musées de Marseille, Marseille
  • MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina
  • MAXXI, Roma
  • Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal
  • Musée des beaux-arts du Canada/National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Musée d’art moderne de Saint-Étienne, Saint-Étienne
  • Musée départemental de Rochechouart, Rochechouart
  • Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, Nantes
  • Musée des beaux-arts de l’Ontario / Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Québec
  • Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona
  • Museion, Bolzano
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
  • San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
  • The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
  • Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis


  • 2012: Governor General Arts Award, Canada
  • 1996: Prix Ozias-Leduc, Fondation Émile-Nelligan, Montréal
  • 1993: Prix Guichard, Musée de Saint-Étienne, France
  • 1991: Prix John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation


  • Jana Sterbak: States of Being. Diana Nemiroff 1991
  1. ^ Nemiroff, Diana; Sterbak, Jana; Kalinovska, Milena; National Gallery of Canada (1992). Jana Sterbak: states of being = corps a corps. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada. p. 15. ISBN 0888846169.

External links[edit]