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Image Architecture – exhibition by Lajos Kassák

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Date: 03 March 1967

Participant: Lajos Kassák (1887-1967)

Opening by: Máté Major (1904-1986, architect, editor)

Location: Adolf Fényes Hall, Budapest

The occasion for this exhibition was the 80th birthday of the artist,who since 1949, was hardly able to get official permission to exhibit his abstract works in Hungary. The Adolf Fényes Hall was an exhibition space offered for self-financed shows that were not funded by the state – as all other public exhibitions – but by the artists themselves. The author of the text, Ferenc Csaplár (1940-2007), was the director of the Kassák Múzeum from its foundation in 1976 until 2007. This article was written on the occasionof an exhibition with the same title.

Documents:

Ferenc Csaplár: From Prohibition to Tolerance, Kassák’s Work and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s (2006)

Victor Vasarely’s letter to Lajos Kassák (1966)


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Exhibitions in the apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys

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Date: 1967–75

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999), Vladislovas Žilius (1939), and others

Organizers: Judita and Vytautas Šerys

Location: The apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys, Vilnius

Exhibitions were held at the home of the museum worker Judita Šerienė and the artist Vytautas Šerys between 1967 and 1975. This was the first private, unofficial, and unsanctioned exhibition space in Soviet Lithuania. Šerienė worked in the exhibition department of the Art Exhibition Hall[1] at the time, and had access to avant-garde works that were inconsistent with the dominant communist ideology and consequently were not included in official exhibitions. These works were exhibited in solo and group exhibitions organized at the home of Šerys, which were open to a circle of like-minded visitors who exchanged information about unofficial cultural phenomena by word of mouth. The exhibitions at the Šerys home featured works by Valentinas Antanavičius, Linas Katinas, Vincas Kisarauskas, Vytautas Šerys, Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė, Vladislovas Žilius, and others, which were stylistically close to the language of Abstract, Op, and Pop art, or explored other modern ideas and forms of expression. In addition to the exhibitions, the Šerys home hosted improvised poetry readings. It attracted students and intellectuals of the time—artists, writers, and theater people.


[1] The Art Exhibition Hall, opened in 1967, was the most modern and important space for rotating exhibitions in Lithuania. In 1992 it was renamed the Contemporary Art Centre.


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Iparterv actions and exhibitions

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Dates: 29 November 1968 (Do You See What I See) , 22 December 1968 (Iparterv I), 24  October 1969 (Iparterv II)

Participants: Imre Bak, András Baranyay, Miklós Erdély, Krisztián Frey, Tamás Hencze, György Jovánovics, Ilona Keserü, Gyula Konkoly, László Lakner, János Major, László Méhes, Sándor Molnár, István Nádler, Ludmil Siskov, Tamás Szentjóby, Endre Tót

Organizer: Péter Sinkovits (1943)

Opening by: János Tölgyesi (Iparterv I)

Location: Iparterv State Architectural Office, meeting hall, Budapest

Tamás Szentjóby planned an exhibition entitled “Donor” in July 1968, in the Iparterv State Architectural Office, but it was cancelled after the invitation leaflet was printed and distributed. Three months later and three weeks before the famous first Iparterv exhibition he organized actions entitled  “Do You See What I See”  in the same location with Miklós Erdély and László Méhes. In the “Iparterv 68-80″ catalog issued in 1980 Erdély described these actions as his connection to the Iparterv group.

The hall of the Iparterv Office was not used regularly for exhibitions and the shows were open only for a few days. The first famous group show presenting the “first generation of the neo-avantgarde” in 1968  was accompanied by a small catalog containing a short introduction by the curator, Péter Sinkovits and the reproduction of the works and the CVs of the participants.

In 1969 four more artists, András Baranyay, László Méhes, János Major, and Tamás Szentjóby accepted Sinkovits’ invitation.  A year later a catalog was printed illegally in the printing house of the Iparterv Office with a slightly different list of artists (Tamás Szentjóby and Sándor Molnár was left out, Miklós Erdély and Attila Pálfalusi included).

In 1980 a commemorating exhibition was initiated by art historian László Beke (1944) and Lóránd Hegyi (1954). On this occasion a comprehensive English-Hungarian publication was issued containing several studies and also documents of the previous exhibitions in addition to the works of the participants.  Finally, shortly before the Regime Change, in December 1988 a three-part “Hommage à Iparterv” series was organized in the Fészek Gallery by Lóránd Hegyi.

Documents:

Péter Sinkovits: Introduction of the publication Document 69–70 (1970)

Miklós Erdély describing the actions performed by him (1980)


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Self-financed exhibition by György Jovánovics and István Nádler

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Date: 15 March 1970

Participants: György Jovánovics (1939),  István Nádler (1938)

Opening action with János Frank (1925 – 2004)

Location: Adolf Fényes Hall, Budapest

The Adolf Fényes Hall was a gallery offered for the presentation of tendencies that were not supported but tolerated by the official cultural politics. In addition to István Nádler’s geometric paintings György Jovánovics exhibited a huge plaster sculpture, whose shape was repeating to the ground plan of the gallery. The exhibition was opened by a fictive radio program that – after the most important international news of the day reported on the exhibition itself . After the exhibition, Jovánovics transported the work to Miklós Erdély’s garden, where the sculpture became the setting for a number of spontaneous events, some of which were documented in photographs. Later Jovánovics called this work, more precisely the opening “the best work of my life” in a lecture reconstructing the event held in Artpool Art Research Center. In the 1980s it also inspired János Sugár (1958) to make an exhibition and shoot a film in the same location.

Documents:

Tape script of the opening action (1970)

Invitation leaflet for György Jovánovics’s public lecture at Artpool P60, “The Best Work of My Life” (1999)

János Sugár on Adolf Fényes Hall, his film Persian Walk, and his exhibition “Exhibition Scenery” (1999)

Video of György Jovánovics’ lecture at Artpool (1999)


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The City as a Site of Plastic Happening – The Proposal Section of the 6th Zagreb Salon

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Date: May, 1971

Organized by: 6th Zagreb Salon

Concept by: Željka Čorak

Participants: Boris Bućan, Braco Dimitrijević, Jagoda Kaloper, Ivan Kožarić, Boris Ljubičić, Nada Orel, Goran Trbuljak, Marija Ujević, et al.

The beginning of the 1970s in Zagreb saw a number of curated projects that commissioned new artistic productions to be realized in public space. At the time, texts written by art critics expressed strong enthusiasm and belief that such artistic practices were able to “democratize” art and reshape the social environment, by developing communication between the urban space and its inhabitants.

The City as a Site of Plastic Happening, conceived by art historian Željka Čorak, was the first invitation for artists to use the city as material for their art. The event was the first iteration of Proposal, the newly established section of the Zagreb Salon, whose very title pointed to the primacy of idea over realization: artists were commissioned to submit proposals, only some of which could be realized. Seventeen authors/groups submitted twenty-four proposals, which were all exhibited at the Student Center Gallery. [1] The idea of a socially-engaged art that uses the city and the public space as a site of confrontation with the audience itself constituted a radical proposal—a desired ideal of social and aesthetic transformation. Some of the works that became widely known were first produced for this event, such as the Grounded Sun by Ivan Kožarić, a large abstract golden sphere placed on one of the neighboring squares in the city. The work’s elusive, abstract shape and its bold placement in one of the busiest areas in the city spurred controversy and even incited aggressive reactions. Another provocative work was Braco Dimitrijević’s series of large-scale photo-portraits of “casual passers-by,” which hung at the representative site of the city’s main square facade. Monumental portraits of anonymous citizens mimicked similar representations of political leaders and occupied the square on which official political gatherings were held.

Taking place three years after the neo-leftist 1968 student revolts in Yugoslavia and immediately after the nationalist Croatian Spring revolts in 1971, Proposal marks the era when the urban space was developing into a site of articulation and visualization of political and aesthetic contestation. By the end of the 1970s when the New Art Practice was already being historicized[2], many of the critics initially enthusiastic about art’s interaction with the urban space now expressed disillusionment, identifying the failure of art in public space to truly succeed in its effort to reach the people. They also noted the indifference of the public and the failure of social institutions to take advantage of the artists’ “offer” to act in the name of the public good.
Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


[2] Through exhibition projects such as New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1968-1978, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (1978), Innovations in Croatian Art of the Seventies, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (1982), New Art in Serbia 1970-1980. Individuals, groups, phenomena, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade (1983).


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Group exhibition in the Republican House of Science, Riga

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Date: 1971

Participants: Jānis Borgs, Atis Ieviņš, Laimonis Šēnbergs, Arvīds Priedīte, and Henrihs Vorkals.

Location: Republican House of Science,  Riga.

This exhibition was the first visible event in Riga in which direct Western influences and the linking of art to a sense of real time were manifested. Participants were a group of like-minded artists studying design, interior design, and textile arts at the Art Academy.

The exhibition had an innovative, experimental arrangement. The central object was Henrihs Vorkals’s spatial tapestry Icarus, in which colorful circles and crescents united a human figure’s inner and outer worlds, allowing it to be interpreted as a target, victim, or struggle. The exhibition’s second strong accent was Jānis Borgs’s super-graphic in which the cartoonish label “Sviuuu …” was placed over an abstract geometric base. This was complemented by similar silk screens, sketches, paintings, and posters scattered around the perimeter of the circular hall.

The exhibition was popular and attracted both controversy and praise. Its organizers later acknowledged that it was intentionally imitating Pop art, noting that “Pop art was everywhere”—in design, interiors, fashion, on record covers, and in musical taste and lifestyles. As written in a review of the exhibition, it was a period of “the universe, electronics, a dynamic living pulse, shifting information requiring heightened intellectuality where earlier intuition and emotions had sufficed.”[1]


[1] Georgs Barkāns, “Izstāde svētku noskaņā” [Exhibition in a Festive Mood] in Padomju Jaunatne (6 February 1972)


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Celebrations – design and interiors exhibition

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Date: February 1972

Location: Exhibition hall of the Institute of Scientific Technical Information and Propaganda (the historic Stock Exchange), Riga.

Participants: Exhibition installer and chief artist: Jānis Pipurs. Creative team: Jānis Borgs, Nora Ķivule, Jānis Osis, Leo Preiss, Laimonis Šēnbergs, and Viesturs Vilks. Altogether forty-nine artists took part.

The ninth Young Artists’ Exhibition was devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the USSR and presented a wide-ranging program. An exhibition of paintings, graphics, and sculptures was held in the Foreign Art Museum, while the Stock Exchange hosted the experimental collective interior design exhibition “Celebrations.” This latter event was one of most capacious presentations of contemporary art, which demonstrated that the avant-garde was not based just in alternative circles, but, through peculiarities of the Soviet system, it was also part of the official, politically acceptable process.

The exhibition’s title was open to various interpretations, and its formal alignment with the anniversary of the USSR, as well as its designation in the design category, made it possible to present a broad, atypically Soviet range of works, with much less painting and sculpture. It was “a dynamic exhibition-show and improvisation in which everything pulsed, moved, glittered, beeped, or revealed other dynamic-kinetic expressions.”[1] Viewers were surprised by the moving floor that beeped when walked upon, the “thirsty” silver fishes that moved in the air against the background of a sunny Pop-art painting, rotating cylinders and towers, etc.

The exhibition emphasized formal and aesthetic solutions, but it also paved the way for the hybrid and art-synthesis processes of the 1970s. Involving spatial, architectural, urban-planning, psychological, and other elements, it changed the way of art perception and the role of the audience.


[1] An interview with J. Borgs in April, 2009.


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Exhibition of independent works by Romualds Geikins, Piotr Severin, and Jānis Strupulis (Latvian Art Academy students)

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Date: 1972

Participants: Romualds Geikins, Jānis Strupulis, and Piotr Severin

Location: Latvian Art Academy, Riga

There were a series of  exhibitions organized by students themselves through the student club and the Communist Youth Committee, but entry to them was restricted to students and staff of the academy. The official justification for the events was the need for the academy’s faculty to be informed about the extracurricular explorations of their students.

The students produced a number of freethinking events that broke artistic taboos and caused controversy, scandal, and the closure of several exhibitions. These exhibitions were not controlled by any approval (censorship) committee and did not respect thematic or ideological boundaries, and hence works with eccentric styles and content could be displayed.

For example, in 1972 three students from the painting and sculpture departments—Romualds Geikins, Jānis Strupulis, and Piotr Severin—organized an exhibition/action with abstract, Op-art and Pop-art works arranged in an unusual set-up. Some of the works were displayed on the floor, which was strewn with papers, while elements such as chairs and easels were stacked in installation-like piles, disturbing the space. The exhibition was banned the next day, deemed artistically unsuitable and to be propagating politically dissident notions.

Several other exhibitions of independent works were also shut down in a similar manner.


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A White Space in a White Space

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Date: 1973-1974

Participants and organizers: Stano Filko (1937), Miloš Laky (1948–1975), Ján Zavarský (1948)

Locations: Studio of Stano Filko, Bratislava; House of Arts, Brno; Young Artists Club, Budapest

The joint initiative of three artists—Stano Filko, Miloš Laky, and Ján Zavarský—left behind the sphere of science and technology in order to reach a spatial experience of the color white, and to equate painting to a mystical experience. White paint was applied, without any personal gesture, onto various objects and materials (i.e., carton tubes, felt)—it considered as a sign of transcendence beyond the the boundaries of the objective world. In a joint manifesto, the authors removed themselves from all systems of representation in order to fulfill the following goals: to create a visual equivalent of an empty space and in a sense to dematerialize art objects to exceed individuality; to clear away a single author’s personal perspective; and to negate traditional means of painting in visual art. The project was exhibited in the House of Arts, Brno (1973) and in the Young Artists Club,  Budapest (1977). Two self-published catalogs by the artists were published, accompanied by a manifesto, and texts written by Jiří Valoch, Tomáš Štrauss, and László Beke.


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Event Harku ’75 – Objects, Concepts

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Date: 6 – 14 December 1975

Initiators and organizers: Artists Leonhard Lapin (1947), Sirje Runge (1950, at that time Sirje Lapin), Raul Meel (1941), and physicist Tõnu Karu

Participants: Silvi Allik-Virkepuu, Villu Järmut, Toomas Kall, Kaarel Kurismaa, Leonhard Lapin, Raul Meel, Jaan Ollik, Jüri Okas, Illimar Paul, Sirje Runge, Silver Vahtre

Location: The Institute of Experimental Biology in Harku, near Tallinn

Scientific institutions often offered spaces for alternative art exhibitions. Two years earlier, in 1973, another exhibition was held at the Agricultural Research Center in Saku, near Tallinn.

This exhibition is considered to have been the last unofficial show in Soviet Estonia. The exhibition itself, like unofficial shows in general, was eclectic and presented such diverse trends as Pop Art along with the most influential developments in Estonian alternative art since the late 1960s—kinetic objects, concrete poetry, and geometric abstraction. The few surviving photographs documenting the exhibition show a lively, slightly chaotic environment: oversized packets of Georgian tea hang from the ceiling (Jaan Ollik and Villu Järmut); in the middle of the space Sirje Runge’s Altar displays a colorful geometric pattern; nearby is Kaarel Kurismaa “chamber fountain”—a round side table with a cubic basin mounted on its top: etc. At the opening, Mess performed—the first Estonian progressive-rock group, famous for their interdisciplinary approach and collaboration with the artist Kurismaa.

Although the Artists’ Union gave permission for Leonhard Lapin and Raul Meel to present and discuss their work with young scientists—the event was officially announced as a meeting of young artists and junior researchers—the show created a scandal as more artists, mainly graduates of the State Art Institute, were invited.[1]

On the last day of the exhibition a seminar was held with participating artists, physicists, and writers. Being the most relevant tendency in contemporary art, the main topic of discussion was Conceptualism. More generally, issues were raised concerning the role and function of art and artists in society. The significance of this exhibition differentiates it from previous unofficial art shows: rather than being simply the typical compilation of progressive works of varying focus, it aimed to relate art, the role of art, and the changing context of art production.

In his speech, Lapin presented the notion of “objective art” as the future of art practice. Lapin called for a new art of forms based on, and developed in accordance with, contemporary industrial reality and technological progress. For Lapin, changes in the environment (particularly industrialization) and developments in technology would introduce completely new environments and means of production and communication, and had fundamentally changed the concept of art and the role of the artist. The main goal of this new objective art was to create an integrated aesthetic environment. Art was to overcome the boundaries between the various disciplines of painting, sculpture, and architecture, and would encompass a variety of techniques, notably in multimedia and electronics. A year later a compilation of the exhibition presentations was edited and independently published in a typewritten manuscript by Meel titled Let a Man Be.

Only one review of the show was published, in the University of Tartu’s newspaper. The announcement of the opening was published in the weekly cultural newspaper Sirp ja Vasar, causing resentment from the Artists’ Union.


[1] See the records of the session of the Board of the Artists’ Union and the Communist Party unit.  Estonian State Archives (ERA), f 2477, n 15, s 17,1.83.


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Group Exhibition of Painting

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Date: 22 December 1977

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Eugenijus Cukermanas (1935), Kostas Dereškevičius (1937), Silvestras Džiaukštas (1928), Leonardas Gutauskas (1938), Leonas Katinas (1907-1984), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Algimantas Kuras (1940), Igoris Piekuras (1935-2006), Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė (1933-2007), Leopoldas Surgailis (1928), Arvydas Šaltenis (1944), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Algirdas Šiekštelė (1931-2008), Ričardas Vaitiekūnas (1953), Nijolė Valadkevičiūtė (1944), and Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999).

Location: LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Art Workers’ Palace, Vilnius

The “Group Exhibition of Painting” was only open for a few days. A public presentation with the artists on the occasion of the exhibition at the LSSR Art Workers’ Palace was held on December 22, 1977. The event was moderated by the art critic Alfonsas Andriuškevičius (1940).

He recalls, “During a discussion of the exhibition, I simply moved from the work of one artist to the work of another, and interpreted them, giving slight hints at an evaluation. Again, I tried to show how the more innovative means of expression worked. Yet it was mostly artists who participated in the discussion, and so there did not seem to be any very skeptical reactions to these means of expression. Nevertheless, the participating painters were interested in hearing interpretations of their work, and in receiving a few critical insights, although I was by no means an authoritative figure.” Later, “during discussions of Valentinas Antanavičius’s and Eugenijus Antanas Cukermanas’s exhibitions at the Conservatory [in 1981 and 1982, respectively], I mostly had to explain to the public their unconventional means [assemblage and abstract art] of expression (for us), and to prove their legitimacy and functionality. Part of the audience was clearly averse to such art. Besides, I tried to demonstrate that those means of expression produced important meanings, and I tried to counteract the idea that they were just empty, formalist games.”[1]


[1] Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, excerpt from e-mail response, March 2011.


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Concrete-sculpture symposium

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Date: Autumn 1984–Spring 1985

Participants: Ksenija Jaroševaitė (1953), Kęstutis Musteikis (1956), Naglis Nasvytis (1957), Mindaugas Navakas (1952), Vladas Urbanavičius (1951), Mindaugas Šnipas (1960) (sculptors), and Vytautas Jakubauskas (1954) (exposition designer).

Initiator: Mindaugas Navakas

Organizers: LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Artists’ Union’s young sculptors section and the Construction Parts Factory

Location: Grounds of the Construction Parts Factory, between the Vilnius-Trakai highway and the railway.

Organized on the outskirts of Vilnius, the concrete-sculpture symposium was initiated by the young sculptor Mindaugas Navakas, who was concerned with sculpture’s relationship with the environment and sought to overcome the closed nature of its form. The young members of the sculptors section of the LSSR Artists’ Union and the architect Vytautas Jakubauskas supported his initiative. Cheap industrial material—concrete—was used to create the sculptures. The artists built the sculptures in situ, taking into account the specifics of the place—the brutal industrial environment—which they saw as an advantage and a challenge for their work. Navakas’s innovative approach later influenced the formation of the notion of the “expanded field of sculpture” in Lithuania.

 


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Exhibition of “Blo” Association

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Date: 1987

Participants: Ilona Baradulina, Huzel Zalayeva, Artur Klinau, Lus (Andrej Lusikau), Siathej Pilat, Valery Pesin, Vital Charanbrysau

Location: House of Cinema, Minsk

The exhibition of artists group called “BLO Association” in the House of Cinema (now – The Red Cathedral) comprised individual and collectively-produced paintings, installations and performances. “The Songs of a Superman” was performed by Artur Klinau at the opening. The exhibition was the first group show presenting the works of artists who were not associated with official Art Academy and felt unrestrained in their methods and approaches. As opposed to ‘academic’ artists who emphasized the importance of the early avant-garde tradition, geometrical abstraction, picture-based works, they used pop-culture imagery and trash in their installations.


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