Zdeněk Antonin Macků

Zdeněk was born in January 1943 in Prague, in the then Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. His mother came from Sušice in the Bohemian Woods, his father from Kostelní Vydří in Moravia, who was a sign painter and lacquerer with a small business in the old town of Prague in the Haus zur Glocke in Michalskagasse. There began Zdeněks love of colour, of the scent of oil paints, turpentine and brushes. His father’s employees let him try out everything and then patiently corrected his brush strokes. The finished signs and furniture were transported to the customers on two wheeled wagons. The atmosphere of the workshop and the large letters on the signs remained as decisive impressions of his childhood.

The Macků family lived at Prague 12, Royal Vineyards, from where it is rather far to reach the old town with the tram. For Zdeněk however, it was an adventure to ride through the city, full of his father’s signs, which he could see from the tram and on which he first practiced reading: letters, colours, signs, on old tram cars and inns with the smell of beer, sausage and tobacco.

In 1948 a new dictatorship began in Czechoslovakia: the communist government withdrew his father’s business permit and as one of the “bourgeois classes” he now had to work as a tunnel labourer. In the same year Zdeněk went to a catholic primary school. He, an only child, was happy there, but after just a few months the sisters were taken away and the school dissolved. A new beginning with new children in a different school, which instead of a religious order was now run by a “proletarian” order meant to lead the children to different divinities: Lenin, Stalin, Gottwald.

Zdeněk joined the “Young Pioneers” and had to learn Russian. His mother, up to that point a housewife, also had to go and work outside. He stayed in this school and the day-home up to his 14th year – a “terrible time”. He also began playing the accordion during this period.

As a “bourgeois” child, he had to live amongst the working classes and learn a trade: as a fitter at the vocational boarding school in Turnov, 100 km north of Prague. The area, with its many churches and monuments, suited him very well. In the boarding school however military discipline ruled, the only “avenue of escape” was occupation with nature, history, architecture, drawing, poetry, and girls – the romantic side of his life beginning at this point.

His mother died in 1958, he returned to Prague and his father. Zdeněk attended the dancing school, learnt the Charleston, shimmy and boogie-woogie. He loved Jazz, Dixieland, New Orleans, brass bands, the music broadcasts from Radio Luxemburg and Radio Munich AF, fashionable extravagances and art. In 1960 he completed his apprenticeship, he was now a trained fitter specialising in elevators.

His father married again – a young woman from Moravia-called Aneschka. Zdeněk was not happy with this. He wanted to educate himself and was interested in cinematography, television and theatre, preferably working as a cameraman or in the theatre. Prague children’s television took him on as a trainee, where he helped as a direction and camera assistant during rehearsals and there met many interesting people.

His father however had other ideas, and in 1961 sent him to the art school back in Turnov, the “Bohemian Paradise”. At 18, he was studying copperplate and steel engraving.
He lived privately, occupying himself with life drawing, modelling and art history; love, poetry, jazz music and art – with the Party as “Big Brother” in the background.
Founding of the “Brontosaurus” artists’ group, later the “Hrot” group (apex).
First exhibitions in Turnov, Semily and Hořice and literary events, worked on film productions in Prague during holidays. Graduated in 1965.

1965 admission examination at Prague Karls University, studying art teaching and pedagogics. Zdeněk was happy to be in Prague again, had no money rather conflicts with his father. He drew poorly paid caricatures for newspapers. At 22 he wanted to see a new world and reach new goals. Up to now, he had only visited Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and East Germany, mostly hitchhiking. He had visited Dresden and Leipzig with the art school. Besides Czech he spoke Russian and some German and English. He had no money, just the will to discover, to see the world, to be free.

In December 1965 Zdeněk with two friends from Prague went on a bus trip “officially” to Yugoslavia. He used the opportunity to stay in the “West” and in Vienna failed to return to his group. During a two-month stay in the Traiskirchen camp he underwent numerous interrogations, and was eventually granted political asylum, an ID card and passport.

In spring 1966 he found a job through a newspaper advertisement, with somewhere to live to boot, the ornamental ironworker Schmirler in Vienna was seeking a fitter. Zdeněk had Mrs. Schmirler, a Viennese Czech, to thank for the position: first district, Schönlaterngasse romantic surroundings, evocative atmosphere with galleries and bars.
The people were very kind, but he had trouble with the language. He would have liked to study at the academy of arts. Friends convinced him to travel with them to America. He left Schönlaterngasse in a wave of enthusiasm, which he would later regret.

In June 1966 he flew from Luxemburg via Dublin to New York. He couldn’t speak English very well, had only 5 dollars in his pocket and remembers the heat, the humidity and the crowds of people that now surrounded him. He knew no one there, but the people from the AFCR, the American Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees in New York City, helped him. The Sokol gymnastics association maintained clubs, gymnasiums and storage for gymnasts in the USA. He found work as an assistant in one such in the summer months in New Jersey. A Czech friend, Mr Kohn, who had long since lived in the USA, recommended him to Bernard Waldman, who had an advertising agency in New York’s Madison Avenue where he now became a freelancer. Through Czech friends, he found a large apartment in 66th street, and someone gave him a piano. The advertising agency was close to the “Radio Free Europe” studios, where he applied as an announcer and writer for the Czech department and received the post.

Mr Waldman, President of the Advertising Club in New York, tolerated his activities at Radio Free Europe; Zdeněk was even allowed to type his texts on the valuable IBM typewriter in Waldmans’ office. Zdeněk got to know Manhattan and the English language. He saved money, bought paints, canvas and an easel and painted at home. He was also making money with the radio. Those were good times, as he remembers.

In 1967 he visited the world exposition in Montreal, travelled across America from East to West for the first time in his car with the two Czech musicians Šlitr and Mareš. He experienced a tornado in New Orleans, saw a rocket launch in Cape Canaveral and returned to New York City – in den sixties a city of hippies, as later San Francisco: psychedelic revolution, new ideas, music, visual arts, flower children, Vietnam.
He met Salvador Dali, discovered the Dadaists, visited art museums and Harlem, Ray Charles sang in the Apollo theatre, Zdeněk especially studied and painted the Afro-American cultural scene.

In 1968 he again crossed America in a car with friends. In Los Angeles he gave an exhibition and sold his first picture. After his return to New York, he was sent to Munich by Radio Free Europe as an editor, where he stayed until 1969.

Besides this activity he enjoyed the creative atmosphere of Schwabing and began to paint again. In Vienna he met his father again, then travelled to Verona, Zurich, Monte Carlo, Venice and by ship back to the USA. He met interesting personalities on board: Oreste Dequel and John Kearny, sculptors from Rome and Chicago – and even the later German chancellor Willy Brandt. In New York he moved back into his Manhattan apartment and worked as a stage design assistant and also for the fashion designer Peter Max, who designed almost all objects of everyday life.
In Los Angeles he met the almost 90 year-old operetta and musical composer Rudolf Friml, who was then composing for Hollywood film companies.
1971 Study tour to California and Mexico, then to Rome and Zurich.

1972/73 exhibition in Irschenhausen near the Starnberg Lake, in winter painted in Tyrol and in spring 1973 travelled by bicycle to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and gained many new impressions. Returned to Munich and Radio Free Europe, later flew to the Bahamas.
Back in New York, work in an advertising studio, illustrations for children’s books at Holt and Reinhardt publishers. Recent trip to South America by bus, train and hitchhiking: Guatemala, San Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama. Study of Indian and African culture, strong influences on his work.

1976 death of his father in Prague, Zdeněk wanted to travel to the funeral, but did not receive an entry visa, flew however in June directly from Montreal to Prague. “Questioning” at Prague airport by the Czechoslovakian state security service. The visa was made dependent on his willingness to give an interview for state television, parts of which were later falsified. He received a Czechoslovakian visa in his US passport, which later was even extended. He reported his temporary stay in Czechoslovakia at the US embassy and was happy to be in Prague again, visited his friends, made music and started to paint again. Zdeněk was employed at the advertising department of the trading company Drobné Zboží Prague and designed shop window decorations, posters and logos. Additionally Zdeněk took walks, ate vegetarian, tried to learn and practice Zen Buddhism, meditated alone and with friends, played music. Action art and happenings were also starting to appear in the Prague scene.
He met the Linzer woman Ilse Romana Geruska- his bride-to-be, mutual journey to Munich, Linz and Innsbruck.

1977 again back to Prague, then mutual move to Linz, apartment in Bischofstraße. He passed the acceptance test as official student at the Linz School of Decorative and Industrial Design. There he studied painting and graphics with Peter Kubowsky and Erich van Ess, and also wrote poetry. He liked the City of Linz very much, remembering his colleagues, the school and his studio with obvious pleasure. He communicated at first in English, only later in German.
1979 birth of his second daughter Vendula.

Study tour with the Trans-Siberian railway through Russia to Vladivostok and by ship to Japan and Hong Kong. Returned to Tokyo together with his friend Marek, “Musician and Shaman”. Collected lasting Japanese impressions: calligraphy, Kabuki-Theatre, architectural, gardens, fields, colours, pictures, ceramics, tea, foods.

1980 Exhibition in the Linz Stadtwerkstatt (City Studio).

1982 birth of his second daughter Helena. Zdeněk lived with his family in Harrachstraße in Linz, later at Tummelplatz 18.
Journey through Switzerland and to Denmark.

1984 completed his studies with a Diploma. Journey to Scandinavia, Finland, Russia, Hungary by car. Sold many of his Tempera-pictures and many black & white sketches.

1985 exhibition in Linz, new studio in Honauerstraße 18. Zdeněk paints large formats, figurative, not abstract, children’s portraits, book illustrations.
Participates in the Symposium in Rauris, sold pictures in Linz and Vienna.
Exhibitions in Linz and New York. He became a member of the SVU (Association of Czech artists and scientists abroad).

1986 Journey through Switzerland, to Italy, Hungary and (illegal) in Slovakia.

1988 exhibition in Wörgl. Gorbatschow’s Perestrojka allowed him to travel back to Prague, Zdeněk occupied a studio in the old town. Intensive work, black & white compositions, met the writer Bohumil Hrabal in his local bar U Tygra and Krušovická Hospoda.
Exhibition in Berndorf.

1989 exhibitions in Pottenstein, Wels, Amstetten and Linz. Zdeněk visited me in the Public Culture House in Dametzstraße 30, Linz and suggested an exhibition of notable Upper Austrian artists in Prague.
Following the November Revolution in Prague Zdeněk had contact to some citizens’ forum activists, who he knew personally and where he applied his linguistic abilities: press conferences were held in every evening in the “Laterna Magica”.
Occupied a studio in Prague Americká 20.

1990 exhibitions in Linz, Kufstein, Budweis, Třeboň and in Freistadt with Ernst Hager. After the political changes in Czechoslovakia I took up Zdeněks suggestion. In October/November the exhibition was, in cooperation with the Austrian embassy, shown as second in the “Grenzgänger” series, in the Prague “Blue Pavilion” gallery. The opening drew great participation from the Prague public and brought all concerned a richness of new contacts, acquaintances and friendships. Over once fixed barriers free encounters and cultural communication is now possible, then a whole generation of artists hardly had the chance of cross-border exchanges of ideas and thoughts. The painstaking preparations in Prague were made alone by Zdeněk with support of the Austrian embassy just a few months after the revolution.

Zdeněk moved recently to Prague and has occupied a studio in Na Hrádku 6, but also in Niederwaldkirchen in the Austrian Mühlviertl. His children are still in Linz, back and forth between Linz and Prague.

1992 recognition of his Austrian Diploma by the Academy of Visual Arts in Prague, received an assistant position at the Faculty of Architecture and there teaches visual communication, drawing and typography.
His colleagues at the faculty, Pavel Přikryl and Milan Vácha, took part in some of the in total ten international sculpture symposiums I organised in the “Grenzgänger” series. Zdeněk attended some of these as a guest.

Founding of the “Torzo” artists’ group, exhibitions in Vienna, Lenora and Pilsen. Participated in artists’ symposiums in Slovakia and Romania. Commuting between Linz and Prague. Occupied a studio there. Also taught at the Austrian Gymnasium in Prague-Smichov art, aesthetics and art history.
Numerous journeys and exhibitions in Prague, Bratislava, Budweis, Pilsen.
Acquaintance with Ing. Vaclavá Skalova Csc. – she became his “muse and critic”.

1999 participation in the “Grenzgänger” project “Retrovie-Avanguardia” in Malo. On the basis of his work “Italia” produced there, I invited him to design a large European series, the Member States of the European Union. Zdeněk had already experimented with geographic maps as subjects for pictures before.

In the middle of February 2000 he ended his teaching in Prague and through a newspaper ad found a new sanctuary in Brloh in the Bohemian Woods. In March exhibition in Malo and in summer with the Torzo group in Washington D.C.
Back in Brloh he started work on the Series “Europa Nova – the new image of Europe”. He enjoyed his new freedom, although this was limited by health problems.
Exhibitions in Budweis and Znaim “Retrovie – Avanguardia” in Opava.
2003 in Budweis and Hohenfurt.
2004 Exhibition “Europa Nova” in Cecina on the Gardasee and in the Museo Casabianca in Malo (Italy).
2006 “Europa Nova”, Exhibition in the European Parlament Brussels
2005 “Europa Nova”, Exhibition in the gallery ve Vodnanech in Vodnan
2006 “Europa Nova”, Exhibition in the museum of Krumau

24.12.2006 sudden death (pulmonary embolism) in his house in Brloh