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Art in non-art institutions

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Date: Since 1962

In the period the art historian Elona Lubytė termed ‘silent modernism’ (1962–1982), unofficial exhibitions were held not only in artists’ studios or residences, but also in various non-art institutions that were home to patrons of modern art and exhibition-initiators. Among the most significant institutions were the club of the LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Writers’ Union, the LSSR State Conservatory, the Urban Planning Institute, the Vaga publishing house (all based in Vilnius), and the Panevėžys Drama Theater, led by the acclaimed director Juozas Miltinis, who cultivated avant-garde ideas in his stage productions. According to contemporaries, the control of the art events that took place inside these institutions was less strict, yet these exhibitions were not advertised by official posters or covered by the press; in other words, they did not receive public attention or official evaluation. Artists’ works were exhibited in lobbies, hallways, offices, and sports and concert halls. Sometimes the unusual exhibition spaces spawned alternative approaches to displaying works of art.


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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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Permanent Anti-Gallery – series of exhibitions

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Date: 1968-1969

Participants and organizers: Július Koller (b. 1939), Peter Bartoš (b. 1938)

Location: The display window of the Hosiery Express Repair shop – Výklad komunálnej rýchloopravy pančúch, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

Let’s imagine a pedestrian casually walking along Klobúčnicka Street in Bratislava near the end of 1968. It’s late November; traces of the August disturbances that were provoked by the occupying army invasion are still visible. The display window of the communal Hosiery Express Repair shop becomes an exhibition space for ”anti-pictures” by Július Koller and photo paintings by Peter Bartoš. Koller and Bartoš continue to exhibit their work regularly here between 1968–69. For the two young artists, this presentation of their own work in an informal setting dissolved the boundaries between art, advertising, and merchandise. The exhibition space was called the Display Window or The Permanent Anti-gallery. Although not their most their spectacular show, in terms of their later work, it represented a crucial shift toward presenting work and ideas in a non-traditional way, in alternative exhibition spaces..


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SOUP’69 – exhibition

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Date: December 1969

Participants: Ülevi Eljand (1947), Ando Keskküla (1950-2008), Leonhard Lapin (1947), Gunnar Meier (1942-2003), Rein Mets (1942-2011), Andres Tolts (1949)

Location: Café Pegasus, Tallinn

Cafés were important exhibiting spaces for unofficial art. However, the Writers’ Union’s Café Pegasus was an official exhibition space for which the Artists’ Union was responsible. Still, censorship was milder there, and it gave young artists the chance to present their work. In December 1969 the legendary Pop Art exhibition “SOUP’69”—the poster depicted a Warhol soup can being “pried open by Estonians”—proclaimed the arrival of Pop in Estonian art.


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Estonian Avant-Garde Art – exhibition

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Date: 17 – 23 August 1970

Participants: Enn Tegova (1946), Peeter Urbla (1945), Rein Tammik (1947), Vello Tamm (1940-1991), Ando Keskküla (1950-2008), Andres Tolts (1949), Leonhard Lapin (1947), and Sirje Runge (1950)

Location: Café Pegasus, Tallinn

The exhibition “Estonian Avant-Garde Art” that opened as part of the third International Finno-Ugric Days was supposed to become a group exhibition of the most radical Estonian art groups active at the time: ANK’64[1], Visarid[2], and SOUP’69. However, due to changes in the political situation[3], many artists decided not to participate.

The few faded photographs of the exhibition that have survived dynamically convey a sense of the exhibition itself as well as the space, which differs greatly from the white cube of the gallery. These are not anonymous shots of an exhibition; rather, they show the works in the social atmosphere of the café. The setting was probably important for creating the works as well. Most of the artworks are inspired by Pop Art—the notion of wanting to shock and grab attention is apprehensible. Urbla’s phallic object Kazachok made from patterned chintz, Tolts’s textile assemblages like the one titled Sleeping Place, and Lapin’s two readymades (pillows) all play with the idea of blurring the line between art and everyday objects. Relating to reality and its mass-produced objects—a concept stemming from Pop Art—leads to the idea of the artist’s need to intervene, which in turn becomes the agenda for the following years. This new role of the artist (and its unique accompanying capabilities) was also referenced on the exhibition poster, which displayed a red cross and a crescent moon along with the slogan, “Sick ones, we will heal you!”


[1] ANK’64 was the first artist’s group in the Soviet period. It formed 1964 from the students of printmaking at the State Institute of Art, including Tõnis Vint, Malle Leis (1940), Jüri Arrak (1936), Kristiina Kaasik (1943), Tiiu Pallo-Vaik (1941), Enno Ootsing (1940), Tõnis Laanemaa (1937), Aili Vint (1941), Marju Mutsu (1941-1980), Vello Tamm (1940-1991). Their pursuits in art were connected with youth culture, Pop and Op Art, as well as with the Avant-Gardes of the early 20th century.

[2] The artist’s group Visarid formed 1968 around the art studio of the Tartu State University and the head of the studio Kaljo Põllu (1934-2010). Other members were: Peeter Lukats (1933), Jaak Olep (1945-2000), Rein Tammik (1947), Enn Tegova (1946), Peeter Urbla (1945), et. al. Visarid advocated “total art”, art that do not design individual commodities, but reorganize the hole environment. The group dissolved 1972.

[3] In aftermath of the Prague Spring events the pressure on artists as well as other members of the society got higher,  the system got more repressive.


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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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At the moment – first international exhibition of conceptual art in Yugoslavia

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Date:  April 23, 1971, 5–8 pm

Participants: Giovanni Anselmo, Robert Barry, Stanley Brouwn, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Jan Dibbets, Braco Dimitrijević, ER Group, Barry Flanagan, Douglas Huebler, Alain Kirill, Jannis Kounellis, John Latham, Group Kod, Sol LeWitt, OHO Group, Goran Trbuljak, Lawrence Weiner, Ian Wilson.

Organized by: Braco Dimitrijević (1948) and Nena Dimitrijević

Location: “Haustor”—entrance hallway of the residential building , Frankopanska Street 2A, Zagreb

In 1970, Braco Dimitrijević and Goran Trbuljak began organizing exhibitions at the “haustor,” the doorway entrance of a tenants’ building on Frankopanska Street 2A in the center of Zagreb. Five exhibitions were held there, four of which involved individual projects by Dimitrijević and Trbuljak. In April 1971, Braco and Nena Dimitrijević organized a three-hour-long group exhibition titled At the Moment the first international exhibition of conceptual art to take place in Yugoslavia, which included the participation of some of the best known figures of conceptual art. The exhibition was the result of Braco and Nena’s travels across Europe where they became acquainted with the burgeoning new art scene. The process of organization involved sending letters of invitation to the participants. Whatever was mailed back to the organizers by those who had responded to the invitation was then exhibited. The flyer/poster for the exhibition contained the organizers’ letter and a list of all individuals and groups who were invited. The fact that the exhibition was organized independent of any institutional ties and that it took place at such an informal space was interpreted by some critics—most notably Ješa Denegri—to embody the subversive noncommercial and anti-institutional character of conceptual art itself. The exhibition was documented by the photographs of Enes Midžić, a fifteen-minute, 16 mm film by Vladimir Petek, and an 8 mm film by Mladen Stilinović. Although it lasted for only three hours, it was widely advertised and well attended. It was later restaged at the Student Cultural Center in Belgrade under the name In Another Moment.

DocumentExcerpts on the making of “Haustor” and the “At the Moment” exhibition from a text by Nena Dimitrijević (1978)

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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Su-terén / The Basement – collective exhibition

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Date: 14–28 February 1989

Participants and organizers: Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), Július Koller (1939-2007), Matej Krén (b. 1958), Radislav Matuštík (1929-2006), Peter Meluzin (b. 1947), Milan Pagáč (b. 1960), Peter Rónai (b. 1953), Viktor Oravec (b. 1960), Jana Želibská (b. 1941)

Curator: Radislav Matuštík

Location: Konventná 14, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The exhibition was conceived by Peter Meluzin as an Action art piece that would end up in a collective exhibition. Action artists made it known that a new artistic trend was emerging in the heyday of the Neue Wilde movement. In order for this to be true, it was essential that the artworks presented in this show were of a high standard. Radislav Matuštík accepted the role of curator, and most of the participants were Action artists, associated with the group called Terén/Terrain. The entire exhibition, from start to finish, required both conceptual and organizational planning in order to realize the project. This included: discussions with artists;  the search for an appropriate location; structural adjustments to the exhibition venue; realization of objects and installations for the show; documentation of the entire process from the initial planning stages to the exhibition opening; press coverage; film journal; catalog printing, etc.

(Exhibition notes according Peter Meluzin.)


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Panarama – exhibition

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Date: 13 October–4 December 1989

Participants: Individual artists and artist groups such as Galina, Kvadrat, BLO, Forma, Pluralis, Komi-Kon, Bismark, and others

Organized by: Belarusian Cultural Fund (BFK)

Location: Empty house on Handlevaya Street, Minsk

The exhibition “Panarama,” organized by the Belarusian Cultural Fund, was held in an old deserted house on Handlevaya Street in Minsk. It was a very significant event of the decade. Paintings and installations exhibited in empty apartments  created an atmosphere of artistic underground. Performances by Belarusian and international artists happened throughout the exhibition. The exhibition catalog “First Survey of Belarus Non-Official Art” was later published. In his introductory article, the artist Ales Taranovich wrote:

“To answer to the question asked by the Belarusian Cultural fund, ‘What kind of exhibition would you like to see the most?,’ the majority of the audience answered, ‘unofficial art.’ When making the decision to organize this exhibition, BFK’s goal was to show the direction that contemporary Belarus art was going by that showcasing the presence of non-Realist traditions: Expressionism, Surrealism, Conceptualism, Pop art, installation, performance, and others.”

Source: Volha Archipava. Belarusian Avant-garde of the 1980s. ‘pARTisan’s Collection’ series. Minsk 2012. http://partisanmag.by/


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