Branko Vlahović, Sculpture, 1976

Branko Vlahović
(1924 – 1979)
Sculpture, 1976
stainless steel
56 x 46 x 25 cm

Branko Vlahović graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (V. Radauš) in 1951 and completed his post-graduate studies under F. Kršinić in 1953. That same year he went on a three-month study trip to Paris. Since 1955, he worked as a visual culture teacher in a school in Zagreb and then in Karlovac.
He is one of the most important representatives of minimalist sculpture in Croatia. Vlahović’s sculpture from the 1960s is based on the idea of modules and the construction of component parts. In a conscious departure from traditional modes of representation or hierarchy, he quickly removed the base of the sculpture. In his early works he used the pliancy and texture of plaster to create solid forms, while his later works relied on industrial aesthetics based on materials such as black sheet metal and polished chrome. Drawings are also an important aspect of Vlahović’s work and are consistently created alongside his sculptures. Their structural, hard edges resemble technical drawings or production plans, and complement the understanding of the sculptor’s thinking. He created the public monuments Icarus in Zagreb (1960) and the Nymph in Karlovac (1964).
This work, simply titled Sculpture, is made from polished silver material, and like many of his works, has a solid composition and no base. The minimally elaborated geometric shapes are depersonalised and exact.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant 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

Stjepan Gračan, Untitled XXV, 1976

Stjepan Gračan
Untitled XXV, 1976
polyester, paint
175 x 60 x 92 cm

The ghastly, burnt and enfeebled figure in Stjepan Gračan’s work Untitled XXV, is a paradigmatic concept of Biafra, a group of artists who used the shocking embodiments of victims to violently and fiercely criticise reality, the generally accepted petty-bourgeois conventions, but also the prevailing concept of Abstract art. The victim is embodied in the horrific distortion and dramatic movement, typical of Biafra, an individual who suffers because of politics and other people’s whims, ideologies and interests. In futile suffering, man becomes a monster.
In 1967, Stjepan Gračan (Prugovac, 1941 – Zagreb, 2022) obtained a degree in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He specialised in monumental sculpture after attending Antun Augustinčić’s Master Workshop, where he remained until 1971. In 1970, he founded the Art Group (Atelier) Biafra, together with sculptors Branko Bunić, Ratko Petrić and Miro Vuco. This group of socially engaged artists who worked in the expressionist style of New Figuration, criticising the contemporary world, was active until 1978. They took their name from the abandoned and devastated wing of the student dormitory in the centre of Zagreb where they lived, and together they staged fifteen group exhibitions. Since most of Gračan’s earlier oeuvre was destroyed in the fire that engulfed his studio in 1979, the tragedy of Gračan’s figures from the Biafra period is best represented by the four sculptures acquired at an earlier date for the NMMU collection. Since 1975, Stjepan Gračan often worked in theatre and television. In 1988, he became a professor of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where he later served as dean. He also participated in the founding of the Academy of Arts and Culture in Osijek. He staged as many as 30 solo exhibitions and created 28 public monuments, including the monuments to Vladimir Nazor in Zagreb, August Cesarec in Osijek, and the Frog Monument in Karlovac.

Lada Bošnjak Velagić, museum consultant 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

Dalibor Martinis, Open Reel, 1976

Dalibor Martinis
Open Reel, 1976
b/w video, MP4
d=3.4 min
MG-6839 b

Dalibor Martinis (1947) is one of the pioneers of video art in Croatian and Yugoslav art. He made his first video works in 1973 in Graz (Austria), in collaboration with his then partner, Sanja Iveković. Initially, Martinis was attracted by the socio-utopian aspect of the video technology: he actually saw it as a counterpoint to public (state) television. In 1973, for example, together with Iveković, Martinis recorded “TV Timer”, a video that consists of twenty or so one-minute interventions into the regular program of Austrian state television (both artists would later make several other videos openly confronting the medium of public television). The new technology, therefore, soon became a new medium – an instrument suitable for simple and fast production and distribution of video content. However, the full potential of video technology had not been reached, mostly due to technological and institutional limitations in the field of distribution. Marijan Susovski took note of this development in 1982, when in one of the first reviews of video art in Croatia, he wrote that Martinis, after 1976, turned towards the relationship between video technology and his own artistic identity. “Open Reel” belongs to this phase of the artist’s work. It is a recording of a video tape being wound around the artist’s head: the artist’s head plays the role of the second reel on the video recorder. This spooling is the only content of the video, so when the face is completely swathed in video tape, the recording is over. The video (what we see) is thus tautologically connected to video technology (what is making the recording), and technology is then tautologically related to the artist (the one who records). In fact, tautology was one of the favourite procedures of conceptual artists, and in Croatian video art we can trace it through the video works of Goran Trbuljak, Braco Dimitrijević and Mladen Stilinović. The same could be said for the humour or irony that characterise the “Open Reel”, as well as most of the artworks of other conceptual artists.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: a still image from the video / from the National Museum of Modern Art's archives

Goran Trbuljak, Untitled, 1976

Goran Trbuljak
Untitled, 1976
b / w video, MP4 video file
d=8 min
MG-6837 a

Goran Trbuljak (1948) is one of the most prominent representatives of Conceptual art in Croatia, as well as one of the first Yugoslav artists who embraced video technology. Van Schley and Willoughby Sharp, two American artists, were responsible for the emergence of the new medium in Croatia, who, as the former curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Marijan Susovski said, “brought video equipment with them and revived the interest in video among Zagreb artists.” Trbuljak recorded his first video in 1972, however, the decisive event for his video work was the exhibition “Audio-Visual Messages”, held in 1973, as part of the Trigon international biennial art festival in Graz. In Graz, Trbuljak recorded five short videos, which are characterised by an analytical approach to the video medium. Trbuljak was more interested in where the limits of the new technology were than in what it could do, especially in relation to other visual arts. Three years later in Motovun, at the first and most important video art festival in former Yugoslavia, Trbuljak recorded four videos (two were recorded in the meantime in Gdańsk and Zagreb). All videos are titled “Untitled”, a reference to abstract painting and a signal to the audience to understand the videos as works that deal with the properties of the medium. However, from today’s perspective, it is difficult to see only the image of a medium in these works, especially when the video inadvertently (?) documents a cultural practice of the time, such as listening to gramophone records together. Specifically, the camera in the foreground records a portable turntable playing two singles, that is, songs: “Da mi je znati koji joj je vrag” by Bijelo Dugme from 1975 and “Moja generacija” by the Korni Group from 1974. In the background of the filmed scene, we see body parts of three people in conversation. We don’t know what they are talking about, or what they look like, just like we don’t know what the man who is playing the records and who disappears from the foreground after the second songs starts, looks like. The camera is constantly fixed at and slightly lowered towards the table where the gramophone is playing. The gramophone is the compositional and symbolic centre of the video. It, in turn, emits messages that, depending on the social position of the observer in the Yugoslav socialist system, can be interpreted as contradictory of complementary: the song by Bijelo Dugme, in fact, speaks about winning girls’ hearts, while the song by the Korni Group – which represented Yugoslavia at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest – speaks about the responsibility of young people for the future of the country.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: still image from the video / From the National Museum of Modern Art's archives

Marija Ujević-Galetović, Franz Kafka, 1976

Marija Ujević-Galetović
Franz Kafka, 1976

Marija Ujević-Galetović graduated in sculpture in 1958 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (mentored by Frano Kršinić), where she started teaching in 1987 as the first female professor of sculpture. She also studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London and spent time in Italy, the UK and France on study stays.

In her rich oeuvre, Ujević-Galetović has drawn on the tradition of Croatian figurative sculpture based on refined volumes bearing a contemporary visual code. She models the melancholic features of her frozen-motion statues successfully by reducing their form geometrically. Regardless of whether they are of a religious, sepulchral, memorial or profane character, thanks to their ingenious solutions and associations her notable public sculptures fit in perfectly with the modern urban environment that they are placed in. Mounted in different attractive locations around Zagreb, her sculptures of August Šenoa, Vlaho Paljetak, Miroslav Krleža or A Male Runner are to be singled out thanks to their subtle monumentality.

In the early 1960s, Ujević-Galetović drew close to Pop Art and New Figuration. She synthesised forms and experimented with the properties of different materials, which is observable in the porcelain bust of writer Franz Kafka. The portrait is esoteric in nature thanks to Ujević-Galetović having successfully introduced discord between its concise form on the one hand, and the realistically portrayed physical and psychological traits of the writer on the other. This is further enhanced by an effective opposition between the glossy glaze of the white figure and its blue hat.

Text: Tatijana Gareljić, museum consultant 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

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