Slavko Kopač
On the Galapagos Islands, 1952
mixed media on cardboard, 73 x 92 cm

Slavko Kopač (1913 - 1995) was the most prominent Croatian modernist of a different figuration whose international career traversed Art Brut, Surrealism and Art Informel. In his 1952 book Un Art Autre, Michel Tapié ranks Kopač amongst the greatest artists, like Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, and pioneers of raw art. After having graduated in the class of V. Becić in 1937, he first painted in the spirit of Post-Impressionist Realism, then in the vein of M. Kraljević’s expression and L. Junek’s colourist facets. During his stay in Italy (1943 - 1948), he created impressionist vistas and watercolours akin to Surrealism. After having rejected Realism and Academicism, he created an elementary and primary expression – one of the precepts of Art Brut. In 1948, he moved to Paris, where the founder of Art Brut, J. Dubuffet, appointed him as secretary and curator of the Art Brut Collection. He remained in that position until 1975 when the collection moved to Lausanne. André Breton entrusted Kopač with the illustration of a limited edition of his 1949 poem Un regard des divintés (In the Eyes of the Gods). In 1950, he participated in the creation of the surrealist almanac Almanach Surréaliste du Demi Siècle, and in 1953 he exhibited at Breton’s gallery À l'étoile scellée. He painted and sculpted using new materials, such as sand, rubber and metal, as well as stone, wood, paper, glass and coal. Attributing to them the features of Luddism and primordial principles, he modelled people, various beings, plants and animals in the manner of Primitivism. Kopač’s painting On the Galapagos Islands (1952) reflects the polyvalent quality and dense material design and is an original depiction and a synthesis of the childlike and primitive expression presented with a multiple two-dimensional form on a two-dimensional background. It is a rudimentary symbol of the turtle with echoes of the exotic, fantastic, primordial and raw art.

Text: Željko Marciuš, Museum advisor at the National Museum of Modern Art©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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