“I am growing flowers that are not grown anywhere else,” said Anna Zemánková in describing her artwork. Throughout her often troubled life Zemánková cultivated a unique personal botany in crayon, ink and oil pastel, creating her own singular realm of emotionally-charged lyrical abstraction.
Zemánková was born in Moravia (today part of the Czech Republic) in 1908. She worked as a dental technician before marrying a military officer and subsequently dedicated herself to raising four children, one of whom, her first-born son, died in infancy - a tragedy that Zemánková never completely recovered from.
It wasn’t until Zemánková was in her early fifties that she started drawing. One of her sons, a sculptor, provided her with materials and encouraged her to produce art as an antidote for the persistent melancholy that afflicted her. During the pre-dawn hours, while the rest of the world slept, Zemánková listened to classical music and drew anomalous biomorphic forms that quivered and pulsated with a life of their own; stamens that rippled like electrical currents; tendrils that twined, spiraled and unfolded into otherworldly blossoms. These subtle and delicately-hewn drawings exude a powerful presence.
In the absence of gallery shows, Zemánková held “open house” exhibitions every few years, and her work came to the attention of Jean Dubuffet who included several of her pieces in the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne, the world’s most notable collection of Outsider Art.
Although her subject matter remained much the same, a number of different phases - marked by her adoption of new mediums, including collage, embroidery, and bead-work - define Zemánková’s artistic career. She was a restless, questing spirit who kept working even after both of her legs were amputated due to severe diabetes.
In 1979, Zemánková achieved significant recognition when she was featured alongside Henry Darger, Martín Ramírez and others in the groundbreaking group show at London’s Hayward Gallery that was the first major exhibition to give art world exposure to self-taught visionary artists. More recently, eighteen of Zemánková’s works were included in the seminal 2013 Venice Biennale, organized by Masimilliano Gioni, director of New Museum, NY—the first time in the venerable contemporary art exhibition’s 118 year history that the work of Outsider artists was represented.
Thirty years after her death, interest in Zemánková has never been greater. Shows of her work will be up this summer at the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne and the Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York, while at the Good Luck Gallery in Los Angeles we are delighted to be presenting the first ever solo exhibit of Zemánková’s art in California, where her rarely-seen beaded and embroidered works will be shown, as well as many collages and drawings.