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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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PSEUDO – exhibition by Gyula Pauer

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Date: 3 October 1970

Participant: Gyula Pauer (1941)

Location: József Attila Culture House, Budapest

Gyula Pauer’s two day exhibition could be realized in an off-site culture house as scenery for János Gulyás’s graduation film at the Hungarian Academy of Theatre and Film. The reporter, Géza Perneczky, art historian and artist, interviewed the audience, critics and the artist at the opening.

The room’s walls, ceiling and floor was covered with plastic foil that was spray-painted in a folded state. Gyula Pauer’s First Pseudo Manifesto was distributed as a flyer during the opening.

Documents:

Visitors interviewed during the opening of the exhibition “Pseudo” (1970)

Gyula Pauer: The First PSEUDO Manifesto (1970)

János Gulyás: Pseudo (1970)


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The First Open Studio

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Otvorený ateliér / The First Open Studio, 16 mm film transferred onto DVD, 7:04 min. (courtesy Marian Mudroch, Bratislava)

Date: 19 November 1970

Participants and organizers: Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), Peter Bartoš (b. 1938), Václav Cigler (b. 1929), Róbert Cyprich (b. 1951-1996)), Milan Dobeš (b. 1929), Igor Gazdík (b. 1943), Viliam Jakubík (b. 1945), Július Koller (b. 1939-2007), Vladimír Kordoš (b. 1945), Ivan Kříž-Vyrubiš (b. 1941), Otis Laubert (b. 1946), Juraj Meliš (b. 1942), Alex Mlynárčik (b. 1934), Marián Mudroch (b. 1945), Jana Shejbalová-Želibská (b. 1941), Rudolf Sikora (b. 1946), Ivan Štěpán (b. 1937), Dezider Tóth (b. 1947), Miloš Urbásek (b. 1932)

Location: Private house of Rudolf Sikora, Tehelná 32, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The collective exhibition ”1st Open Studio,” opened on 19 November, 1970, in Rudolf Sikora’s house—with an adjoining courtyard and garden—on Tehelná Street 32 in Bratislava. It was the first organized protest (in the form of an exhibiton) against the intervention of power over the visual arts, following the events of 1968. The nineteen participants, who gathered there at the invitation Rudolf Sikora, one of the young, emerging artists, shaped the unofficial art scene in the following years. Through the ”1st Open Studio” the artists declared their adherence to the progressive, Slovak art scene in the 1960s. In their work they developed experimental creativity, playfulness, a sensitivity to civilistic poetics of the painting, the art of object and the environment. On the threshold of the period of normalization, in the stifling atmosphere of a closed society and ongoing political purges, the artists’ studios became, not only a place to confront individual artistic practices, but also a space for participation in creative, collective experiences.

(Eugénia Sikorová, ”The Coming of a Generation,” in 1. Otvorený ateliér. Sorosovo centrum súčasného umenia (Bratislava, 2000), 31.


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The Legality of Space – plein air installation by Ewa Partum

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Date: 21–23 April 1971

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizers: Ewa Partum and BWA Gallery, Łódź[1]

Location: Freedom Square (plac Wolności), Łódź

The installation appeared in an open space between two houses near Freedom Square in the center of Łódź. Ewa Partum exhibited numerous boards with prohibitions: actual traffic signs and others, created by the artist, bare absurd messages—for example, “Prohibiting prohibited” or “Permitting prohibited.” For the opening, invitations were sent out. Since the road-signs had been borrowed officially from the Transportation Department of the city, they were guarded by the police, and some of the passersby took it as an exhibition of traffic signs. During the opening, Partum drove around the square and from the car with a megaphone shouted the captions placed on the tables. The artist published a catalog of the performence in 150 copies. Her installation was not granted any attention from the official Polish art world. The local media reacted with curiosity and compared Partum to Dalí, the Spanish Surrealist, because her work was equally “crazy.”


[1] Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych [Office of Art Exhibitions] was the name of the city galleries in Poland in the ’80s.


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Direct Week

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Date: 6-9 July 1972

Organisers: Gyula Pauer (1941), Tamás Szentjóby (1944)

Participants: László Beke, Miklós Erdély, Gyula Gulyás, Miklós Haraszti, László Haris, Ágnes Háy, Tamás Hencze, Péter Lajtai, Péter Legéndy, József Molnár V., Gyula Pauer, Margit Rajczi, Tamás Szentjóby, Endre Tót

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

Direct Week was an exhibition and event series that incorporated works and actions replying to Pauer’s and Szentjóby’s call, as well as lectures and screenings that were originally in the program of the “Avantgarde Festival” planned in April in a Budapest Club, but banned shortly before its scheduled date.

Documents:

Gyula Pauer, Tamás Szentjóby: Call for “Direct Week” (1972)

Gyula Pauer: II. Pseudo Manifesto (Advertisement) (1972)

Tamás Szentjóby:  Exclusion exercise – Punishement-Preventive Autotheraphy (1969-72)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003):  126-135.

On the website of Artpool Art Research Center


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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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László Beke, Miklós Erdély, György Jovánovics, Péter Legéndy, János Major, Gyula Pauer, and Tamás Szentjóby – exhibition and actions

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Date: 24 June 1973

Participants: László Beke (1944), Miklós Erdély (1928-1986), György Jovánovics(1939), Péter Legéndy (1948), János Major (1936-2008), Gyula Pauer (1941), Tamás Szentjóby (1944)

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

This exhibition – presented two months before the Chapel Studio was occupied and closed by the police – did not have any title and was completed spontaneously with works and actions during two weeks. The works exhibited were used as props for theatrical performances in the next few weeks.

Documents:

Miklós Erdély: What is avantgardism? (1973)

Tamás St. Auby – interview (1998)

György Jovánovics – interview (1998)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003): 150-5.


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Street – exhibition by Erzsébet Schaár

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Date: 23 June 1974

Participant: Erzsébet Schaár (1908-1975)

Opening by: János Pilinszky (1921-1981)

Location: Csók István Gallery, Székesfehérvár

The last exhibition of Erzsébet Schaár was accompanied by a catalog containing the poems of János Pilinszky coupled with the art pieces, next to which they were read out at the opening. The process of building the exhibition and the opening was filmed by János Gulyás (1946). The installation was later displayed in Lucerne and then, finally, in Pécs, where the temporal styrofoam components of the sculptures were replaced with pieces made of concrete. Géza Perneczky writes about Schaár in his comprehensive essay about the Iparterv group and the Neo-Avant-Garde in Hungary.

Document: Géza Perneczky on Erzsébet Schaár (1996)


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Exhibition of Works by Moscow Artists at DK VDNKh

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Date: 20–30 September 1975

Participants: A total of 122 Moscow artists

Location: DK VDNKh (Dom Kultury, Vystavka Dostizhenii Narodnogo Khoziaistva; Hall of Culture pavilion at the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy), Moscow

Organized by: The organizing group at various points in time included Aleksandr Rabin (b. 1951), Larisa Pyatnitskaya, Igor Sinyavin (b. 1933), Eduard Zelenin (1938–2002), Koryun Nahapetyan (1926–1999), Aleksandr Kurkin, Vitaly Komar (b. 1943), Alexander Melamid (b. 1945), Mikhail Odnoralov (b. 1944), Maksim Dubakh, Borukh (Boris Shteinberg, 1938-2003), Lev Bruni (1950–2011), Vyacheslav Koleichuk (b. 1941), Vitaly Linitsky (b. 1934), Yakov Levinshtein (b. 1923), E. Kovaikina, Tatiana Kolodzei (b. 1947), and Leonid Talochkin (1936–2002).

After the Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park exhibitions that took place in the autumn of 1974, some unofficial artists were emboldened to seek more opportunities to show their work in public. Their efforts resulted in a series of significant exhibitions the following year that included an exhibition of painting at the Beekeeping Pavilion, DK VDNKh on February 19–22, 1975, by twenty Moscow-based artists. A two-part apartment exhibition series titled “Apartment Previews in Advance of the All-Union Exhibition” also took place at private addresses in the hope of convincing the Ministry of Culture to mount a union-wide exhibition. (First exhibition: March 29–April 5, 1975, eight apartments, 132 artists, 741 works; Second exhibition: April 23–27, 1975, six apartments, 163 artists, 726 works). Finally, the “Exhibition of Works by Moscow Artists” at DK VDNKh took place September 20–30, 1975. Each exhibition was not without difficulty. Local authorities used many tactics to intimidate artists and limit participation including the exclusion of artists not based in Moscow, threats to participants (i.e., Nadezhda Elskaia was threatened with the removal of her daughter; others with loss of work or living space; threat of psychiatric intervention), delays with the hanging of the show or difficulty installing the works, and obstacles created for the public audience members such as long queues, closed cafes and toilets. A total of 145 unofficial artists submitted artworks for the exhibition, but after much back-and-forth between the group of organizers and the administration, only 122 Moscow artists were allowed to participate. The exhibition at the DK VDNKh attracted huge crowds who were forced to wait in line for hours to gain entry. Two of the more controversial works exhibited were Hippie Flag by the group Volosy [Hair], and the action Hatch Eggs! by the collaborative trio of Mikhail Roshal (1956–2007), Victor Skersis (b. 1956), and Gennady Donskoi (b. 1956) who were later called the Nest. The latter work consisted of a pile of branches and leaves in the shape of a nest, two meters in diameter, and was installed directly on the floor of the exhibition hall. Viewers were invited to sit in the structure in order to “hatch eggs”; signs nearby stated: “Quiet! Experiment in progress!” According to Roshal, the Ministry of Culture had threatened to remove Hatch Eggs!, but the other exhibitors refused to help and it remained in place, becoming a place where people would sit, eat, drink, and socialize. Eventually, the work was destroyed when the authorities declared it a fire hazard and soaked it with a fire extinguisher.

See I. Alpatova, L. Talochkin, and N. Tamruchi, eds., “Drugoe iskusstvo”: Moskva, 19561988 (Moscow: Galart, 2005).


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Reconstruction. Idea. Project. Object. – Jüri Okas’s solo show

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Date: 18­–29 March 1976

Participant: Jüri Okas (1950)

Location: Tallinn Art Hall, exhibition space on the third floor of the Artists’ Union

In the late 1960s, the Artists’ Union set up a small room on the third floor of the Tallinn Art Hall to enable artists whose works had been rejected from official exhibitions to show their work. Access to these exhibitions was technically open to all, but since one could enter the space only through the premises of the Artists’ Union, the wider public was automatically excluded. The exhibitions were approved by a board of Artists’ Union functionaries and a poster was produced for each exhibition.

The walls of the exhibition space displayed black-and-white photographs and print works—what were called “reconstructions”—dealing with structural analyses of concrete, mostly urban, environments. With the additional use of black-painted wooden staves and mirrors, Okas created an all-encompassing perceptual environment, and with this installation he made one of the first attempts in Estonia to redefine the exhibition genre and also the art object.
Perhaps referencing Minimalist art practices as well as El Lissitzky’s Proun Room (1923), Okas fully engaged the viewer with the exhibition space—distorted and deformed by mirrors, it was a deconstructive space that confused and disoriented viewers as they moved about. Following the exhibition, Okas shot the 8 mm film Environment (1976, black and white, 5 min.). The film combines exhibition views with exterior views of the city. Like Reconstruction, the film is characterized by bustling montage, jumpy rhythm, and sharp cuts; it provides an analysis of the space and perceptions of it.

Later, Okas preferred the title “Environment” for the exhibition as well as the film.


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Estonian Monumental Art 1902–1975 – a show of historical and experimental works

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Date: 17 May – 28 June 1976

Participants of the experimental section: Villu Jōgeva (1940), Tiit Kaljundi (1946-2008), Vilen Künnapu (1948), Leonhard  Lapin (1947), Jüri Okas (1950), Toomas Rein (1940), Sirje Runge (1950),  Harry Šein (1947), Aili Vint (1941), Tõnis Vint (1942)

Organizers: The Ministry of Culture, designed and curated by Leonhard Lapin (assisted by art historian Viivi Viilmann)

Location: Tallinn Art Hall

The main exhibition was a retrospective of twentieth-century Estonian monumental sculpture. In the main hall were photographs of monuments from the Soviet period with a bust of Lenin in the center. In smaller halls were decorative sculpture and some constructivist forms from the 1920s, and in the farthest room from the entrance was the small show of experimental works. The latter featured designs and models by architects, as well as abstract paintings, prints, and kinetic objects, and a separate brochure was provided in addition to the main catalog.

The abstract artwork might be considered as way to camouflage monumental designs—a tactic often ascribed to unofficial art, enabling works to be exhibited that did not conform to official standards. However, this show was different in that it included architects, designers, and artists equally, without differentiation. The goal of this intervention was not merely camouflage, but the transformation of the official genre, to re-shape it into an extensive design of public space.

An anonymous review (actually written by Lapin), published in the local arts magazine Kunst, explained that the new monumental art was moving away from the design of single monuments and towards the organization of total environments. Architecture as well as street lighting systems would be the field for this new art.

The idea for the exhibition was related to discussions on monumentality and monumental art in the Soviet Union and also to the crises that had arisen since the 1960s concerning the new modern industrially constructed city—itself in need of a new kind of monument. Representational monumentality was confronted with a new kind of synthesis based on art, architecture, and new technologies. It was about the creation of new city structures and, as result, a different kind of public space.

Lapin used the exhibition format to make a statement and to open dialogue with official art. His exhibition design used the colors of the French national flag— blue, red, and white—to refer to ideas of freedom, brotherhood, and equality.


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Form. Color. Dynamics – kinetic-art exhibition

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Date: December 1978

Participants and Organizers: Valdis Celms, Andulis Krūmiņš, and Artūrs Riņķis

Location: Architecture Center in St. Peter’s Church, Riga

Six years after the first kinetic-art exhibition “Celebrations,” designers Valdis Celms, Artūrs Riņķis, and Andulis Krūmiņš organized the most conceptually sophisticated exposition of kinetic art in Latvia. Lights, mechanics, optical and aquatic kinetic objects, installations, and utopian environmental proposals made for a broad and surprising range of works. They revealed visionary poetic thought expressed through extraordinary technical experiments. This aesthetically unusual exhibition did not fit neatly into either the Soviet art or design categories and was a practical affirmation of debates in local art circles about going beyond artistic boundaries and contemporary definitions.



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Conceptual Games

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Date: Autumn 1978

Participants: Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933 – 1999), Gediminas Karalius (1942), Petras Mazūras (1949), and Vladas Vildžiūnas (1932)

Organizers: Vladas Vildžiūnas and Marija Ladigaitė (1931)

Location: Vladas Vildžiūnas and Marija Ladigaitė’s studio and the Jeruzalė sculpture garden, Vilnius

In the late 1970s, the house and the studio of the graphic artist Marija Ladigaitė and the sculptor Vladas Vildžiūnas, as well as the adjacent sculpture garden they had founded in the Vilnius suburb of Jeruzalė (Lithuanian for “Jerusalem”), were popular meeting spots for art and culture personalities, who enjoyed the experimental atmosphere of the place. Ladigaitė and Vildžiūnas hosted informal get-togethers and discussions, during which the guests shared the latest news about the trends in Western modern art and new sculpture-casting technologies, exchanged books, and discussed the exhibitions on display in the studio. The core of the Jeruzalė garden consisted of young sculptors who were interested in avant-garde art trends and flocked around the Vildžiūnas couple; on various occasions, representatives of other spheres of culture visited as well. Several actions, known to their participants and viewers as “Conceptual Games,” were organized in the Jeruzalė garden in 1978. During one event, the textile artist Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė and the sculptors Gediminas Karalius, Petras Mazūras, and Vildžiūnas created site-specific installations and presented them to their friends. “Kazė wrapped the old garden in strips of rice paper, Mazūras inflated a giant intestine, Karalius welded an impromptu constructivist figure, while Vladas weaved rope webs in the crotches of the trees,” recalls Ladigaitė.[1] The processes that took place in the Jeruzalė sculpture garden provided an impetus for the emergence of new artistic forms and ideas—primarily in sculpture—but also in other art fields.


[1] “Marija Ladigaitė, grafikė, Vladas Vildžiūnas, skulptorius. Pokalbis” [Conversation with Marija Ladigaitė, the graphic artist, and Vladas Vildžiūnas, the sculptor], in Quiet Modernism in Lithuania, 1962–1982, ed. Elona Lubytė (Vilnius: Lithuanian Art Museum, Contemporary Art Centre), 201-209.


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Women’s Art 1980 – exhibition

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Date: November 1980

Participants: Izabella Gustowska, Anna Kutera, Natalia LL, Ewa Partum, Krystyna Piotrowska, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, and Teresa Tyszkiewicz

Organizers: Izabella Gustowska and Krystyna Piotrowska

Location: ON Gallery, Poznań

The first national exhibition of the practices of Polish women artists interested in negotiations of feminine subjectivity was organized by two artists who run the gallery associated with the Fine Arts Academy. Izabella Gustowska, when asked about the concept of the show, said she had been familiar with most of the artists from previous exhibitions at ON except for Ewa Partum, whom they invited due to her clear-cut artistic position, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś, whom, in turn, they wanted to honor as a pioneer of a certain kind of sensitivity. This was why the “L”-shaped gallery’s smaller room was devoted entirely to Pinińska-Bereś. The pink-quilted fluid rug spilling out of her Well of Pink ran across the floor of the larger room above, where the works of the younger artists were on display together with photographic works, films, and works on paper. The invited artists presented performances or live lectures (except for Krystyna Piotrowska, Teresa Tysziewicz probably made a comment to her movies) during the two-day symposium opened by speeches of the theorists Alicja Kępińska and Jerzy Ludwiński. What the different realizations had in common was, in my view, their focus on the issue of space and the representations of the subjectively understood feminine body.

“Although the exhibition had not been thought as a feminist demonstration, the title provoked questions about distinguishing the characteristic of art created by women artists—their peculiar features and goals. The organizers wanted to provoke such a discussion and posed questions that had never been asked in Poland before. […] I do not say that nothing like women’s art does exist, because art has no sex (is sexless),” wrote Grzegorz Dziamski. “But look at what women artists do and wonder if in the pieces presented by them there is something you will not find anywhere else—another sensibility, other imaginations, a different approach to the world.”[1]

Beside the Polish Film Chronicle that reported on Partum’s performance, the exhibition was not reviewed in the media and stayed forgotten for a long time, mentioned only in Dziamski’s articles on women’s art and in the catalogs of Presence III and ON Gallery. The thematic was continued by Gustowska in the “Presence” exhibition cycle in the 1980s and 1990s.

Detailed description of the exhibition

Document: Izabella Gustowska: WHY? (1998)


[1] Grzegorz Dziamski, “Drobne narracje,” in Drobne narracje. XV lat galerii ON (Poznań, 1994), 6–7.


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