«In my line of work it occasionally occurs to me
that I could perhaps be by-passing history or history
me, and I’ll leave nothing behind. On the other
hand I can imagine it’s a great feeling to work like
Lichtenstein, where the form, once found, goes
on and on, half-tone dots from the cradle to the
grave, big deal! But doesn’t Lichtenstein look like a
Palaeolithic monster to you too, like a dinosaur?
So I think my way is the only possibility for me—
I mean how I do things.» Dokoupil, 1992
Jiri Georg Dokoupil was born in Krnov, former Czechoslovakia, in 1954. After the invasion of the Soviet army in Prague in 1968, he escaped with his family over Austria to Germany, he started to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cologne in 1976. Later on he also attended classes at the Universities of Frankfurt and the Cooper Union in New York, where he studied among others under German concept artist Hans Haacke. The influence of Haacke is evident in Dokoupil‘s early work. From 1983–84 Dokoupil was guest professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Dusseldorf and 1989 in Madrid.
In 1979 Dokoupil founded the group Mülheimer Freiheit with artists such as Hans Peter Adamski, Peter Bömmels and Walter Dahn. The group associated with art dealer Paul Maenz who organised Dokoupil‘s first solo exhibition in 1982. In their shared studio in Cologne the six Jungen Wilden sought to explore a contemporary expression for their art by using a neoexpressive, figurative style of intensly colourful painting with traditional subjects and by overriding the intellectual, reduced formal language of Minimal and Conceptual Art. But already in an early stage Dokoupil developed a less wild, rather unusual method of working and soon found his own radical subjective way with individual considerations. With his «book painting» shown at Documenta 7, Kassel, in 1982, Dokoupil attracted the attention of the art world. It was a gigantic material painting called God, Show me your Balls, a kind of homage to a «plate painting» of Julian Schnabel, who was not invited to participate in the exhibition—in Dokoupil‘s eyes a real effrontery. Since then—besides the early group exhibitions with the Mülheimer Freiheit—Dokoupil's work has been subject of numerous one-man shows in renowned galleries, important museums and at other cultural sites worldwide.
In accordance with the thesis of Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, Dokoupil never wanted to be subordinated to a personal or a forced style, thus he never developed a uniform style that would allow the observer to recognize his work. Rather he paraphrases different preceding styles, plays with them and invents incessantly new techniques with which he experiments extensively. Probably only a certain expressivity and his affinity for eroticism may be continuous characterisations in his world of images. His oeuvre today contains over 60 so-called series and far more than 100 devised techniques or styles. Since 1989 he is e.g. developing the technique of «soot paintings», painting projected images with soot of a burning candle onto a blank canvas hanging flat from the ceiling. The soot paintings contain different sub-series depicting a vast variety of themes. For his «tire paintings» of 1991-1992, he used freshly colour-dyed rolling tires on predominantly wet, ungrounded canvas. In his «soap-bubble paintings» of 1992-93 he lets soap-bubbles burst on canvas, while the liquid soap is mixed with colour or ink. In 2003 Dokoupil creates «whip pictures» by lashing a cowboy whip, which was stuck in a paint pot before, at the canvas.
Even if a retrospective of his oeuvre would resemble a group show of different painters, it has nothing to do with any pluralism of styles, with the claim of the coincidence of styles, or with a variety of post-modern irony. The focus of his multifaceted oeuvre is in fact on exploring original techniques and configurations generating a domain for playful experimentation and physical tension in which new images can arise and assuring that the act of making images is independent of the iconographic compulsions of the media world today.
Dokoupil lives and works mainly in Berlin, Madrid, Prague, and Rio de Janeiro.