Otto Zitko


Otto Zitko’s art ingrains itself onto the mind of each and every viewer. Because in Zitko’s works, seemingly chaotic lines dart across the surface and merge, twist, knot together and tangle to form images. These images contain the same qualities that Jean-Luc Godard looks for in a good film: a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order.

In the preface to his book Otto Zitko – Me, Myself and I, Tom Trevor (the former head of Arnolfini in Bristol, where Otto Zitko created a wall paining spanning three floors in 2010, similar to his highly acclaimed installation at Hamburger Bahnhof for the exhibition Die Kunst ist super!, curated by Udo Kittelmann in 2009) tells the story of a little boy who had been told to practise his handwriting in an exercise book, but his hand slipped every time he put pen to paper: he got lost in lines and deviations and was obviously more interested in going beyond the limits of the paper than trying to create beautifully formed letters. “Of course it would be quite wrong simply to characterise Otto Zitko’s practice as the unfettered outpourings of a primitive, childlike urge”, explains Tom Trevor. “Long after mastering the written word at school, as a teenager Zitko learned to draw by copying photographs of works by Dürer, Rembrandt, and Tintoretto, amongst others, as well as by making studies from nature. Later still, he began expanding his drawing practice, step by step, from small works on paper to large-scale panels, only eventually graduating to the cavernous, immersive space of architectural interiors.”

His most recent elaborate wall painting formed an integral part of Manifesta 10, which was curated by Kasper König in St Petersburg: wild, red lines sprawled across two rooms, coming together to create a single installation. In an interview with the art magazine art, Kasper König explained that, against the backdrop of politically difficult times, he didn’t want to present “Disneyland art” or works that appealed to the “taste of the oligarchs”. When asked what his aim was, he replied: “Abstraction, for example, is a very important phenomenon to me. It originated in Russia, but no longer exists there, of all places. This is why I work with artists like Otto Zitko who reflect on this heritage.”

In his second solo exhibition at Krobath Berlin, Otto Zitko presents new large-format works: black and silver-coloured lines drawn with oil paint and lacquer on honeycomb boards. “They don’t represent the installation per se”, the art historian Jan Avgikos wrote about Zitko’s works, “Instead, they distil the polarities of experience that characterise Zitko’s installations.” A condensation of sorts. Of space onto a surface.

Peter Krobath
(English translation: Mandana Taban)