Mostly reliant on the somewhat less frequently exhibited works from the holdings of the National Museum of Modern Art – apart from a few artworks from the Marinko Sudac Collection and a few owned by the authors – the exhibition Pre-contemporary Action – Postmodern Reaction tries to examine how far modernism, and its most radical segment in the form of the so-called historical avant-garde, penetrates the space of contemporaneity and to what extent – especially in the context of art trends in Croatia where many early 20th century art movements have certain hybrid characteristics – can modernism, that is, the discretely expressed signs of avant-gardism, fall under the somewhat more flexible, and in the sense of naming the specific movements or isms, less cumbersome term of pre-contemporaneity.
Using the examples of Croatian art created in almost one hundred and twenty years, the exhibition points to a certain continuity of creative practices along the lines of some of the most important characteristics of the modernist paradigm, as well as the phenomenon of referring the progressive Croatian artists – both from the period of High Modernism of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the contemporary ones – to the experiences of the historical avant-garde that emerged in the most advanced artistic environments during the first decades of the last century. The exhibition presents different mediums, such as paintings, drawings, graphic art, photography, sculptures, collage, watercolours, objects, installations, urban interventions, different combined tecchniques etc.,in the works of prominents artists such as Josip Račić, Emanuel Vidović, Miroslav Kraljević, Josip Seissel, Josip Vaništa, Ivan Picelj, Vlado Kristl, Julije Knifer, Ljerka Šibenik, Ante Kaštelančić, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Duje Jurić, Damir Sokić, Kata Mijatović, itd.
Based on the analysis and observations conducted in this way, the artists and their respective works are divided into five units with indicative names: Faces of Expression, Ratio of the Surface, Chromaticism of the Monochrome, Sisyphus in the Studio, Breton’s Syndrome.
Although the exhibition units do not present a strict division into particular artistic-intellectual movements such as Expressionism, Constructivism, the monochromatically oriented post-Informelist currents, Existentialism or Surrealism we can certainly apply to them the somewhat more general and broadly understood determinants such as expressive, constructive, monochromatic, existential and surreal. The point of these determinants is the expansion, even overcoming, of the narrowly defined temporal categories within which certain styles, movements or trends occur. Relying primarily on the visual characteristics of individual works, the exhibition calls attention to individual artistic expressions, while pointing to a certain relativity of temporal, stylistic and interpretative categorizations.
This relativity is manifested through the fact that many artists, on account of different visual characteristics of their works, are represented in two, or even three units, their oeuvres encompassing the determinants of several different isms and at the same time stimulating different interpretative approaches. The aim of the exhibition is to show how the artistic development of individual artists often progressed intuitively, through different contents, forms and individual stylistic features, under the influence of modern and contemporary currents.
The authors of the exhibition concept and setup are Neva Lukić i Vanja Babić, coordinated by Željko Marciuš, the National Museum of Modern Art’s museum advisor.
Photo: from the exhibition set-up Goran Vranić ©National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb