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Slovak Graphics of the 20th Century | Galéria mesta Bratislavy | Allowance organisation of the City of Bratislava, capital of the Slovak Republic

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Exhibition

Slovak Graphics of the 20th Century

Mirbach Palace (show Contact)
6. 12. 2007 - 2. 3. 2008
Curator: Ivan Jančár, manažér - Zuzana Böhmerová

The story of Slovak graphic art of the 20th century
may be characterised as a fascinating journey packed with
individual life-stories, a kind of “intimate mirror”, reflecting an era
of contradictions and their mutual interactions. In spite of and
against great odds, the creativity and internal freedom of Slovak
artists affected the evolution of this topic. Many artists exceeded
the barriers of time and space, while others rather sank into their
private world, in order to create an image or message of their
very own inner-world. While some of these artists successfully
integrated into the context of the European and Non-European
fine arts, many of them discovered new forms of graphic
thinking merely in the intimate environments of their ateliers,
without pertinent (and in many cases desired and necessary)
broad confrontation; others yet gained the recognition they
deserved at the end of their lives.
The 20th century was a period full of turnovers, tensions
and paradoxes. Unlike in the 19th century, when the artist was
perceived to be an ideal depicter of an objectifiable truth of the
spirit, situated beyond event reality, artists of the 20th century
discovered the relativity of their personal statements (e.g. by
experimenting with imaging means, by testing new gestures
in statements communicating their inner world, as well as by
reflecting the definition of the subject in objectifiable categories,
such as space, area, colour, movement, light effects, haptic
quality and change).
For more than half of those long 100 years, the possibilities
of free artistic expression were very restricted in Slovakia, but
as we can see, both periods - the period of freedom, as well as
the period of oppression – produced real artistic personalities.
Slovak graphic art gradually crystallised into a specific
phenomenon. Here we can find stories of courage, humbleness,
desire for freedom, but also stories of silent meditation, solitaire
screams, introspective stories without significant ambitions or
those broaching the sunnier aspects of life at the time, albeit
(from the historical point of view) for a short time. Slovak graphic
art saw its peaks and falls. However we may see it, we simply
cannot deny its significance in context of the development
of fine arts. From our present point of view, many of its forms
could seem conservative to us, while others remain virtually
timeless. All of them were created in a specific time, in specific
circumstances and conditions, with particular connections and
in a particular environment.
It was not easy to select the authors for this publication.
The original intention of selecting just the most relevant
authors seemed rather insufficient to us from the aspect
of the comprehensive development of this issue - as if lacking
an integral statement. There were so many questions to ask.
What about choosing solely graphics as a dominant medium or
only including important artists making graphics just marginally?
To what a degree should we extend the list of graphic artists?
Where should we set the tiny separation line between the use
of inspirational sources and individual creative contribution?
Where is the separation line between art and non-art? This
aforementioned separation line is actually hard to set and for
the authors of this publication it also meant (in many aspects
at least) some depersonalisation in order to catch all important
aspects and follow this development without interruption, while
orienting it by their selection to the 21st century. This is also one
of the merits of graphic art in Slovakia in the last century.
The Slovak science of fine-arts approached the processing
of the history of our arts from various aspects, each of them
bearing several dangers. The search for an unambiguous
development model of our arts always turned out to be
rather problematic, i.e. from the aspect of seeking the national
myth, rational structures, style-changes in arts, the definition
of individual circles or generations or the close connection
and influence of a particular environment and particular time.
The search for direct connections to topical tendencies of a
particular time, and the resulting imitation, successful application
or development of their respective methods also proved equally
problematic. Other media with a more continuous development
(such as painting) failed to develop an unambiguous approach
- in fine arts, it was even harder to define. This approach is
one of the very fields showing an uneven and ambiguous
development. Especially in the first decades of the twentieth
century, where we can define entire circles in painting, very
few artists did graphic art or they did it just marginally. Certain
periods were typical for seeking native inspirations and in other
cases the authors directly joined the current tendencies
in European fine arts. This is the very reason why we have finally
decided not to prefer any of the aforementioned aspects - but
cover them thoroughly one by one and in different periods,
depending on the significance of their effects for graphic arts
of their respective place and period. In many cases, solitary
personalities affected the fate and orientation of our graphic art
more than entire groups, but even their work showed certain
ties to the previous movements. In evaluating our art, we note
marked catching-up and keeping-apace with current trends
resonating throughout the entire 20th century. But was this
always the case with the Slovak graphic art?
When conceptualizing this publication, we have tried to
choose works of higher significance in the context of those
authors, most reflective of Slovak graphic art of their respective
period. For this reason, but especially due to the limited extent
of this publication, we have finally decided not to include exlibris
works and postage stamps, constituting specific fields
of graphics, which deserve to be dealt with separately.
Within the personal characterisations of the individual
authors we have tried to comprise their life and work
comprehensively and to point also at aspects being mutually
interlinked with their graphic works. Their artistic work was
preceded by intensive labour with numerous primary sources,
in comparison, evaluation and processing of the historical
connections. Also important was our continuous communication
with still-living authors, who completed and amended
facts wrongfully taken from previous sources. Some of their
observations were even as yet unrecorded thus far, at least in this
form and this extent.

Ivan Jančár, curator

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