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Biennes Center Vojtech Kubasta Exhibition
Celebrating the work of an extraordinary artist
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A circa 1959 Kubasta pop-up book, Letíme vesmírem (Flying through the universe, Ellen G.K. Rubin collection) provided the cover for the 2005 Bienes Center "Pop-ups, Illustrated Books, and Graphic Designs of Czech Artist and Paper Engineer, Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992). "Open the front cover, and the rocket ship that can been seen through the cellophane porthole takes off!

The Biennes Center of the Literary Arts celebrates Vojtech Kubasta…

The Czech artist Vojetch Kubasta at his home, in Prague.

You know now that Jim Findlay loves books.What you don't know is how much: so much that he did all the scanning and photography for the Bienes Center Kubasta exhibit catalog; and attached, by hand, each rocket pop-up!

OK. So, for the latter task, he did have a little help from his friends.

"Kubasta's daughter Dagmar Kubastóva Vrkljan, her husband Nick, and their daughter Brenda helped us assemble the books," Jim says. "Nick is a wonderful man, and Brenda a bright young woman who's working on her Ph.D. And Dagmar? So filled with personal information about her father and her family. We sat assembling the books and talking about Kubasta and his work.

This catalog would not have been possible without the collaboration of Dagmar and Helen Rubin, the major collector, who came from New York for the opening. Ellen and Dagmar spoke. It was a wonderful evening, a worthwhile undertaking.

What gave Jim the confidence to undertake this prodigious, 137-page, full-color, large size, glossy publication?

"I've had experience with publications," Jim says. "I had published a little book when I did my first pop-up exhibit here. And before coming to the Bienes Center I worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Wolfsonian in Miami Beach. I come from an art background, I'm used to being around exhibits—I do art book exhibits here—and I wanted to document our Kubasta exhibition. Especially, because there's nothing published on Kubasta other than the German catalog. I was fortunate to have had the cooperation of other people involved in collecting and studying Kubasta, and am most grateful to Dagmar and Ellen Rubin."

A page from the Bienes Center Kubasta exhibit catalogue gives a tantalizing glimpse of the other treasures on its other 136 pages: (Clockwise from top right) 1. Algerian 1981 and 1985 edition of Puss in Boots pop-up book; 2. Golem, watercolor, circa 1981; 3. Folk Tales and Legends, German edition, circa 1983; 4. Beowulf, watercolor, circa 1981; 5. Folk Tales and Legends, 1981; 6 Czecho-slovakian winter holiday scene, 1980-1990. (1, 3, 5, Ellen G.K. Rubin Collection; 2, 4, Dagmar Kubastová Vrkljan Collection; 6, The Bienes Center Collection.)

"Very special thanks are extended to Ellen G.K. Rubin for the extraordinary energy and enthusiasm she brought to the year-long task of helping to organize the exhibition and the preparation of the accompanying catalog," writes Jim on the catalog's acknowledgement page. "In addition to generously loaning seventy-five Kubasta books and art works that are the very core of the exhibition, she also authored for the printed catalog an insightful and ground breaking essay on Kubasta."

Ellen's essay is titled "The Life and Art of Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992), spans nineteen pages, should be required reading for all Kubasta fans: "Vojtech Kubasta," she writes, "Czech children's illustrator, paper engineer, and author, was one of the twentieth century's most imaginative and remarkable artists. He combined a knowledge of Czech folk art, puppetry, architecture, and the graphic graphic arts to create playful universes of wonder and magic that awed and amazed both children and adults…"

Ellen, who on her web site (popuplady.com) deliciously describes herself "like a pig seeking truffles… when it comes to books illustrated and paper engineered by Kubasta…" guides us through Kubasta's life and work with headings titled: 'Early Years;' 'Nazi Occupation and World War II;' 'Post-World War II;' 'Mozart and Prague;' 'Artia and Pop-ups;' 'Exporting Kubasta;' 'Walt Disney productions;' 'Technology;' 'Mature Works;' 'At Home and Abroad;' 'Legacy;' and, of special interest to crèche lovers, 'Nativities.'

Ellen's essay alone is worth the price of this catalog, available from The Bienes Center (see ordering information below) but there's so much more: 'Kubasta in Context—Prague: History and Art in Vojtech Kubasta's Golden City,' by Belena S. Chapp, former Director of Museums at the University of Delaware; and, 'The Fairy Tale Movable Books of Vojtech Kubasta,' by Gerry Bohning, retired Barry University children's literature professor and a Kubasta collector. And, did we mention all those wonderful color photographs and illustrations from Ellen and Dagmar's collections?

Kubasta's daughter, Dagmar Kubostová Vrkljan, and her husband, Nick Vrkljan — helping assemble pop-up catalogs, and keeping the Kubasta legacy alive.

Dagmar Kubastová Vrkljan, Kubasta's daughter, also contributed a moving recollection: "When I was a child," she writes in 'My Father, my Best Friend—Reminiscences of Vojtech Kubasta: A Daughter's Perspective,' "my father's studio was our family's living room… Behind his desk, my sister and I had our play area…

As my sister and I grew older, the play area gradually disappeared. It was replaced by a comfortable green chair that sat directly across from my father's desk. I remember sitting in the chair and starring at the abundance of papers, scissors, rulers, protractors, paints, and brushes that seemed to forever cover the top of that enormous wooden desk. In the green chair, i would often sit and talk to my dad while he continued with his work…

"In 1968, I left Czechoslovakia for Canada. After I moved, I missed that green chair and I missed my best friend, my father. Fortunately, he was a prolific letter writer. Through this method of correspondence my conversations with him continued long after my departure from Prague.

"My father would often tell me how fortunate he was to earn a living by doing what he loved to do most: drawing pictures for children. His life's ambition, he maintained, was to enrich the lives of children."

As he has enriched ours, Dagmar.

Kubasta Exhibition Press Release
February 7, 2005

Broward County Commission Libraries Division Presents
Pop-ups, Illustrated Books, and Graphic Designs of Czech Artist and Paper Engineer, Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992)

Broward County, FL - “Pop-ups, Illustrated Books, and Graphic Designs of Czech Artist and Paper Engineer, Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992)” is on display through April 30, 2005 in the Bienes Center of the Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale.
An opening reception and program with the collector Ellen G. K. Rubin of NY, and Kubasta's daughter, Dagmar Kubastová Vrkljan of Canada, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, February 17. The program and reception are free and open to the public. RSVP to 954-357-8692.
The Bienes Center’s exhibition features 150 items by Kubasta selected from private and public collections. The earliest item in the exhibit, a sketchbook, was created in 1921 when Kubasta was seven years old. The exhibition features the pop-up and moveable books from the 1950s to the 1980s that were to become his hallmark.

Formats included in the exhibit are: pop-up books, flat books, advertisements, ceramics, greeting cards, magazines and many more designs. Eleven languages are represented including Arabic, Czech, Danish, English, and French.

A full-color catalog, with 150 images from the display, will be available for purchase.
The Bienes Center for the Literary Arts and The Fontaneda Society (Book Collectors Club of South Florida) are sponsoring the event.

For more information, call 954-357-8692.

While supplies last — Catalog Ordering information:

This catalog—whose cover was inspired by Letíme vesmírem (Flying through the universe), a pop-up book in Slovak, circa 1959—belongs on every pop-up and crèche lovers hands.

Pop-ups, Illustrated Books, and Graphic Designs of Czech Artist and Paper Engineer, Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992); by James A. Findlay and Ellen G.K. Rubin; 137 pages; ca. 150 illustrations; 28 x 19 cm; perfect bound; $35; published by Bienes Center for the Literary Arts; Broward County Main Library, 6th Floor, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301; 954-357-8692; 954-357-6762 (fax); jfindlay@browardlibrary.org; www.broward.org/library/bienes/bienes.





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