“Work” at Casado Santapau gallery
In 1960s Hungary, there were three categories of art: supported, tolerated, banned
The official ideology dictated socialist realism as the supported mode of expression, while only things that were openly political were banned. Most things that artist did in that time fell into the middle category – it was not forbidden to produce it, but it would not be exhibited in state controlled institutions (which more or less equaled all public displays) or bought by public collections. Apart from this theoretical freedom – and this is a parallel to the present time – it was not easy as an artist to survive financially. One of the possibilities for a regular income where the prints commissioned by the state-run art gallery system, the Képcsarnok.
They gave out topics to be covered, some more openly ideological – like the history of the workers’ movement, others purely profit oriented – images of landmarks and tourist sites, others in the grey area between propaganda and the mundane, like the series “Pictures from the Life of Hungarian Transport and Telecommunication", published in 1965. These images – of train depots, harbors, bus garages and car repair shops – were created by various artists, some famous, others unknown, some in line with the government, some secretly against it, some would leave the country afterwards, or develop an oeuvre in which these realist paid jobs remain an exception.
I have bought these works over the years, and was fascinated by their artistic energy, their quality and their complex messages, their interest in the various aspects embedded or outside of the subject matter – the urban landscape, abstraction, the “human condition”. These works have more or less disappeared from the official art history of Hungary, as after 1989, rightfully, the formerly unwritten history of the “unofficial” neoavantgarde artists of the 1960s were brought into the focus of exhibitions and the canonisation of the institutions.
I wanted to find a mode to show these remnants of a difficult and compromised era, and started to think about ways of framing them. The metallic envelopes, made from copper and aluminium expose and conceal, validate and undermine their authority, call for attention and demand physical proximity. (“Envelop”, 2019)
Matters of big and small, distance and closeness, of framing and “packaging” are constants in my work. I am fascinated by the act of projecting – developing ideas as well as actually projecting an image onto a wall, into a room. Something small can become large, a small idea can occupy space – like the light cone of a video projector.
The series of “Projections” (2019) makes an attempt at framing small objects, at demanding attention for them, occupying space. The coins mounted on the projecting steel holders are tiny, but their circulation allowed them to cross spatial limitations, move between places, between hands, between classes. In their most extravagant displacement, they became collector’s items, taken out of circulation before ever being used.
The “Study Desks” (2016) return to the process of collecting, and to the various aspects of artistic work – research, travel, documentation, creating images, studying and displaying them. “Study Desk (Susanne Kriemann photographing Ernst May, Magnitogorsk, Russia” incorporates two photographs I took. One shows a housing block built by german architect Ernst May in Magnitogorsk, a city that was newly built in the 1930s around an iron ore mountain, and is until today one of the biggest steel producers of the world. The second photograph shows the artist Susanne Kriemann, who was in Magnitogorsk with me, to do research for our contributions to the 2015 Moscow Biennial.
Finally the “Postcard Holders” (2019) use the traditional (and possibly obsolete) format of the postcard, that commodifies and communicates distant places, artworks or ageist jokes. The holders display image material that accumulates during the research for artistic work. Stacks of photographs, bound (and thus made inaccessible) with bookbinding cloth.
- Andreas Fogarasi