Alex Mlynárčik (1934, Žilina) is one of the most prominent Slovak Neo-Avant-garde artists.
He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava under prof. Milly and prof. Matejka in the period from 1959 to 1965, and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague under prof. Sychra. From 1965 to 1967, he was an assistant at the Bratislava Academy.
He engaged in various artistic strategies, conceptual practices, and he made assemblages, happenings, and interventions in a natural environment. Despite the repression of the normalisation period, he spent time in Paris on several occasion, in the European art centre, a traditional gravitational point of the entire Czechoslovak neo-avant-garde scene.
During his first visit in 1964, he met Pierre Restany, a theorist of Nouveau réalisme (César, Arman, Saint Phalle, Christo). This key person was a link between the Slovak conceptual artists with the West and Duchamp’s concept of “emerging art into reality”. The influence of the Nouveau réalisme artists can be seen in Mlynárčik’s action called “permanent manifestations”, from 1965 onwards. But Mlynárčik did not take the French circle’s ideas literally, in whose focus were discarded objects of consumer culture and the accumulation of them in the form of assemblages, collages, décollages, and mixed media. Mlynárčik was focused on examining the relationship between humans and their relationship with given objects in a given environment, which served as the critique of institutions, high culture and the system.
In the same year, together with Stano Filko and the art historian Zita Kostrová, he made the Happsoc Manifesto (short for “happy Socialism”). He also did the first action in the series of four. In it he turned the mundane event of the May Day celebration in Bratislava, with all the participants, into a ready-made, or an artwork.
One of his most outstanding works from the early 70s is the First Snow Festival (1970) which he organised with the artist Miloš Urbásek and experimental musicians Milan Adamčiak and Róbert Cyprich. The festival was held as an unofficial event, parallel with the World Ski Cup in the High Tatras. The artists had to recreate artworks ranging from the Renaissance period to the then-contemporary examples, all using snow as the only material.
During the 1970s and 80s, he lived in Prague, with occasional work engagements in Žilina and Paris. In 1972, he was kicked out of the Slovak Art Association because the regime thought that he promoted “ideas of western civil art”. He was awarded the Ford Foundation (1972) and Guggenheim Foundation (1986) scholarship. From 1990 to 1991, he was the director of the Gallery of Arts in Žilina.