In his experiments with poetry and verbal collage, Jiří Kolář sought to free words from their normal function and meaning. When he began making collages during the early 1950s, he repurposed these skills to convert written texts and works by other artists into designs that had a purpose independent of their original components. In St. Francis Preaching to the Birds (after Giotto), individual French words, such as "béatitude," "foi," and "reconnaître" (beatitude, faith, and recognize), become secondary to the overall composition, which was inspired by Giotto’s (Italian, 1266/67–1337) late-thirteenth-century fresco of the same title. In Catholicism, St. Francis of Assisi (Italian, ca. 1181/82–1226) is the patron saint of animals and is said to embody God’s love for all creatures. Here, Kolář wrapped sections of rope in pieces of printed text to construct shapes that mimic the major components of Giotto’s painting—a slightly bowed St. Francis, a second figure who stands behind him, birds grouped on the ground, and a few that hover in flight.
Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017