KÜNSTLERHAUS FÜR KUNST UND MEDIEN, GRAZ
Curators: Sandro Droschl, Áron Fenyvesi
23 June 2017—07 September 2017
— Imre Bak, Sári Ember, János Fajó, Andreas Fogarasi, Péter Tamás Halász, György Jovánovics,
Tamás Kaszás, Zsófia Keresztes, Ilona Keserü Ilona, Adrian Kiss, Ádám Kokesch, Tamás Komóroczky,
László Lakner, Little Warsaw, Mira Dalma Makai, Dóra Maurer, István Nádler, Márton Nemes,
Péter Puklus, Klára Rudas, Gergő Szinyova, Zsolt Tibor, Ádám Ulbert, Júlia Vécsei —
With "Abstract Hungary" the Künstlerhaus, Halle für Kunst & Medien (KM– Graz) is presenting twenty-four Hungarian artists of different generations whose artistic practice is devoted to current variations of abstract art. The exhibition represents a further development of the narrative blueprint for the much-discussed concept of abstraction. It will feature both established and new artists, some of whom are exhibiting their work for the first time in Austria. On two floors indoors and in a sculpture in public space, art by younger and middle generations enter into a dialogue with pioneers from the 1960s whose oeuvres have remained relevant to the present-day production of art.
Key, internationally known figures such as László Moholy-Nagy, Victor Vasarely, Simon Hantaï, and Lajos Kassák make us aware that abstract art in Hungary has a long and complicated history that has continued to develop throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. For a long time, abstract art was regarded as a practice that received no special recognition.
Contemporary abstract art is inspired by a critical approach to the supposed universality of a visual vocabulary, which, among other things, can be perceived as a kind of universal art relieved of the burden of local context. In Hungary today abstract artists strive for a timeless, enduring perspective of art that is rooted in the knowledge of its long history. The younger generation’s lively, relatively instinctual works tend to distance themselves from a minimalist approach as they open up to a variety of directions from trash aesthetics to the boundaries of figurative art. Taken altogether, it’s possible to discern in them a reflective stance toward the current wave of international attention focused on abstract art.
The term “abstract” plays an overriding role in the show, in the sense that it represents an open-minded, productive attitude that transcends the ostensible practice of formalism. The term also encompasses an art historical, discursive dimension that sheds some critical light on the factor of time, while also regarding the participating artists as a connective element. In a period of ambivalent political, social, economic, and technological spheres, abstract art interprets things beyond the local. This approach plays with the concept of an independent international language, underscoring its strength as a binding element that surpasses language barriers. To this extent, the exhibition is not about representing the country. Rather, it takes today’s complicated and confusing local and international environments as its starting point in order to contrast via proposals and drafts—“abstracts” with future potential—updated and living traditions with a stance that overcomes the classic idea of the nation. Moving beyond the specific interest in the Hungarian art scene, the exhibition’s title could also be interpreted as an interchangeable, “abstract” concept, in the sense that it represents a productive, empty space for potential contemporary international developments in art and society. Ultimately, the title also brings into question the concept of “abstract art,” a term that is overburdened with art historical weight; at best it could be made productive again, as an effective structural aspect of the chain of arguments alluded to here.
The thematic exhibition emphasizes the diverse approaches and understandings of abstract art, from the instinctive and conceptual ideas to the referential and perspectival ones. Without wanting to create an overview with the aid of lexical, chronological, or taxonomic methods, the exhibition demonstrates the complexities of abstract art, which range from the radical geometrical references of the 1960s to the coherent development that continues to this day, despite all of the interruptions and variations.
The Künstlerhaus has invited numerous artists who carry on the legacy of the quiet modernism of abstract art—the neo-avant-garde that was established in the late 1960s. The artists of this generation, such as Imre Bak, János Fajó, György Jovánovics, Ilona Keserü Ilona, and Dóra Maurer, who have recently received increased attention, will present their works from recent years. Other important artists in the show represent New Conceptualism, a movement from the 1990s that includes Andreas Fogarasi, Ádám Kokesch, Tamás Komóroczky, and the art collective Little Warsaw. The youngest generation of Hungarian artists, born in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Sári Ember, Zsófia Kersztes, Klára Rudas, and Gergő Szinyova, are part of the local dialogue and shed new light on current directions in abstract art—most certainly influenced by the conceptual inclusion of the global discourse.
The exhibition "Abstract Hungary" encompasses painting, sculpture, installations, ceramics, photography, and video. The show also incorporates Tamás Kászas’s piece "Stage Monument" (2017), a sculptural and performative intervention in the public space that refers to the historical concepts of Lajos Kassák. This installation will function as both a site for performances and workshops, as well as a meeting point for passersby in the city park, who will be able to use this public space as a stage for their own individual purposes.
Photo: Pascal Petignat