David Černý was born in Prague, Czech Republic and studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s after finishing studies at a special electronics high school and having been rejected twice from the Academy. Černý entered the industrial design program at the Academy so as to avoid “communist” requirements for sculpture. A non-conformist from the beginning, Černý gained local notoriety by painting pink a Soviet-era tank that served as a war memorial in Czechoslovakia’s capital city of Prague since 1945 to symbolize liberation after WWII. This was considered an act of hooliganism and Černý was arrested and briefly detained. Throughout his career, Černý has worked in a variety of media, including street performance art and film, but he is best known for his thought-provoking, often controversial, outdoor sculptures. This is in addition to the artist’s sometimes outrageous behavior in public.
In Man Hanging Out (1996), Černý depicts psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud suspended by one hand from a pole high above the ground. Freud was born in Freiburg, now part of the Moravian region of the Czech Republic. Freud is credited with having completed his most creative work in his 40’s, when he was suffering from psychosomatic illnesses and a number of phobias including the exaggerated fear of dying. At the age of 83 and suffering from mouth cancer, Freud called upon his personal doctor and his long-time friend Max Schur to assist in his suicide by helping to administer doses of morphine.
Černý created the piece in response to the question of what role the intellectual would play in the new millennium, as Freud was, in Černý’s words, “the founder of psychoanalysis – the intellectual face of the 20th century”. Like his other works, Man Hanging Out starts as a surprise to ordinary sensibilities, then intimates the artist’s frustration with the way things are (or were) and, for those in tune with the message, insinuates the personal questioning of the status quo. Man Hanging Out is a fine example of the reason why Černý is considered a leading sculptor and a pop-culture icon.