A Composition, 1959-1960
oil on canvas
83,5 × 97,7 cm
MG – 4419
Painter, graphic artist and designer Ivan Picelj (1924-2011) was an experimenter and a classic of Geometric Abstraction over a long period of time ranging from post-WWII and High Modernism to so-called Modernism after Postmodernism. He was one of the founding members of the EXAT 51 group of painters and architects (1951-1956), the Industrial Design Studio and the international New Tendencies art movement in Zagreb (1961-1973), whose activities he contributed to in his capacity as organiser, participant and graphic designer (posters, Bit International magazine). At the time, he created programmed works that explore the psychology of visual perception, and the rhythms and motions of particles within the visual circuit which brings his work closer to Op Art. He is a programmer of exact creativity (Božidar Gagro) and was one of the leading representatives of serigraphy in Zagreb. He based his work on the principles of the Bauhaus, Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism and Minimalism. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, which he left in 1946 not because of his tendency towards abstraction, but because of his need for freedom (Radovan Ivšić). In painting, he developed absolute Geometric Abstraction using basic forms and colours. Ivan Picelj developed his A Composition (1959-1960) by geometrically grading rectangular forms of achromatic colours and overlapping sections, having ultimately created a three-dimensional optical effect on a two-dimensional surface. In 1952 in his flat in Zagreb’s Gajeva Street, he organised EXAT 51’s first exhibition together with artists Marko Rašica and Aleksandar Srnec. He then participated in the VII Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris and in 1959 he started to collaborate with gallerist Denise René, with this collaboration having continued for many years to come. Picelj did graphic design throughout his career as an artist. He produced 11 graphic art folios, created reliefs in wood and objects, and is included in the Dictionary of Abstract Painting (Michael Seuphor, 1957).
Text: Željko Marciuš, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb