A Letter and a Pencil, 1954
pencil on paper
An exchange of thoughts, feelings and experiences with friends or like-minded people happens quickly today and on a daily basis. At the time this drawing was created, however, communication meant something completely different. Letters, postcards and telegrams connected and created networks between people differently. We can say, with the benefit of historical distance, it is no coincidence that Josip Vaništa, four years after he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, drew an envelope and a pencil. Specifically, in 1959 in Zagreb, Vaništa and a group of friends will establish the neo-avant-garde Gorgona Group, whose activities will include the so-called art as a form of behaviour, which comprised correspondence, collective walks, socialising and the like. How unusual this drawing by Vaništa must have appeared in those years! Next to all those abstract compositions, landscapes, interiors or still lifes that dominated art of that time, Vaništa’s image of a letter and a pencil - two ordinary mass-produced items - had to stand out as an oddity. Vaništa seems to have lucidly recognized the importance of global communication in art, although several more years would go by before he devoted himself, within the Gorgona Group, to the so-called Mail Art, that is, before the postal system became a standard instrument of artistic work. How important written communication was for Vaništa’s life and work is confirmed by the long-term correspondence he had with friends and colleagues in Croatia and abroad, which was sporadically published in Vaništa’s books, such as “Skizzenbuch (1932-2010): Behind the Open Door”, “Book of Records”, “Letters – Painter’s Diary” and others.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić,curator of 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