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Jakub Berdych's Robot

The light up glass sculpture alludes to the famous modernist work of the Čapek brothers who invented the word "robot"

by Adam Stech in Design on 18 June 2014

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The design and sculptural works crafted by Jakub Berdych, of Prague­-based Qubus Studio, represent a wide range of inspiration and intelligent references to history and Western society at large. Experimenting with materials, forms and meanings within the monumental design objects he has envisioned and produced, Berdych's work is ever-evolving. His latest creation, a glass sculpture (created for Prague­'s Křehký Gallery) called "Robot," stands as a symbol of the visionary work from Czech modernist writer and philosopher Karel Čapek and his brother, painter Josef Čapek.

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Berdych was inspired by the life and work of these two important figures who influenced Czech culture in the 1920s and 1930s. Karel was a writer who presented the word "robot" to the world—for the first time—when he finished his famous "R.U.R."(Rossum’s Universal Robots) science fiction play. It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word to the English language and society as a whole. The play—about the production of the artificial people—is one of the most significant contributions from Czechs to international 20th century theater and literature. Karel's brother Josef was a talented painter, who belonged to the pioneering generation of modernist artists interested in varied artistic movements from fauvism to expressionism and cubism. His paintings synthesized austere geometric forms of human figures with a wide range of bright colors.

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"Actually, the word 'robot' was originally invented by Josef for his brother Karel. Comparing the word with Josef Čapek's paintings, one gets the impression that Josef Čapek anticipated some of the first robots, in his paintings. Looking at his work, I tried to give his idea a third dimension," says Berdych, who implemented some aspects of Josef's geometric figures into the "Robot" design.

For his Cubist-­esque glass piece, Berdych inserted light tubes inside the structure, in collaboration with the master glassmakers from Kolektiv Studio in Nový Bor—a traditional center for Czech glass manufacturing. He designed the figure from stained colorful glass panels; a reference to the traditional technique used mainly for decoration of churches since the Middle Ages. The colorful palette of Josef Čapek's paintings meets the sci-­fi vocabulary of his brother's literature, all in this one extraordinary object.

"Robot" was first presented at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during the Salone del Mobile in Milan and recently shown again during Křehký Mikulov Festival of Art and Design. The Křehký Gallery is now presenting the artwork through pictures photographed by Salim Issa at the historical Libochovice Chateau in the Ústí nad Labem Region, Czech Republic.

Images courtesy of Křehký Gallery

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