Jiří Kolář (Protivín, 1914 – Prague, 2002) is one of the most notable Czech artists, a poet, author of experimental and visual poetry.
Early in his life, at the age of sixteen, he discovered modern poets (Jaroslav Seifert, F. T. Marinetti), who inspired his writing. He sent the first poems to František Halas, who edited the library of debuts at Václav Petr's publishing house. The collection of verses was published under the title Křestný list in 1941. Halas introduced Kolář to Jindřich Chalupecký, with whom he founded Group 42 in 1940, and his texts became a manifesto of group aesthetics. Group 42 disintegrated after Ivan Blatný emigrated and some members joined the Communist Party.
In 1949, he married Běla Helclová (Běla Kolářová) is was as well a prominent artist. For a very short time of a couple of months in 1945, he joined the Communist Party and left after he understood its functioning.
He was a member of Umělecká beseda, and in 1947 he led its literary department. Until 1949 he was an editor in the Dílo cooperative. Kolář was arrested in 1952 due to Prométheova játra, his most well-known literary work, he was interrogated and spent nine months in custody before being released on presidential amnesty. In the work, he emphasised morality and resistance to all forms of totalitarian government.
Kolář supported artists with whom he had friendly contacts (Mikuláš Medek, Ladislav Novák, Václav Boštík, Vladimír Fuka), as well as colleagues from Group 42 and the Křižovatka Group. For Vladimír Boudník, who met Jiří Kolář in 1959 through Jan Kotík, Kolář was a key person, as he bought his woeks and arranged his first foreign exhibitions.
From the late 1950s, Kolář moved from literature to collages. He started with experiments using photographs to create new stories, contrasting themes reminiscent of Dadaism. He would cut strips of colour reproductions and glue them together vertically so that they deform the original image; chiasmage, where he arranged small cut-out pieces into geometric shapes; or used cut-out or crumpled paper material, which he glued to a base. His abstract poems were created on the typewriter, arrangements of letters, numbers or characters in geometric compositions. Since 1963, he has used various objects as a three-dimensional background of the collage.
At the time of the so-called normalisation, after the Soviet occupation of 1968, he sponsored the publication of the samizdat Edition Petlice and the Award Edition Petlice. He was one of the first signatories of Charter 77. In 1979 he received a one-year scholarship in West Berlin, and in 1980, at the invitation of the Centre Georges Pompidou, he moved to Paris. After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, Kolář returned to Prague.