Željko Hegedušić
The Flag, the Devil and the Declaration 1969
ink on paper,
470 x 360 mm

Hegedušić was born in 1906, in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the artistic milieus of Zagreb, and later Paris, will be crucial for his development as an artist. As a member of the Earth Group, Hegedušić created several anthological works in the period from 1930 to 1941, which can be connected to New Objectivity, an art movement that used irony and grotesque to express criticism of the European society between the two wars. When the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes banned the work of the Earth Group in 1935, the socially critical art almost completely disappeared from the culture. The need to present social reality, to talk about it, at least figuratively, still remained and many Croatian art critics will later connect this ban of the “real” with surrealist tendencies in art. Željko Hegedušić is one of the artists in whose work we can trace this phenomenon. After World War II, his works will no longer have the character of social criticism, although, especially in the later stages of development of the socialist society, criticism will be much needed (in Croatia, the artists congregated around Conceptual art tendencies will assume this function). Although the title of the drawing – “The Flag, the Devil and the Declaration” – plays with ambivalent meanings, it is difficult to read it as an open critique of the current social circumstances. We must bear in mind that in contemporary public opinion, the word “declaration” was most often associated with the so-called Declaration on the Status of the Croatian Language, that is taken as a symbolic beginning of the Croatian national awakening in the Yugoslav federation. In that sense, the questions ‘which flag?’ is not completely preposterous, especially since the drawing does not explicitly show any flag. Either way, Hegedušić concealed allusions to the socio-political situation, cloaked it in an imaginarium that invokes pre-modern painting, on the one hand, and the inevitable surrealist theme, eroticism, on the other. Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

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