Massacre of the Innocents, 1972
100 x 200 cm
Zagreb student Ivan Lesiak (1929 – 2008) is particularly known for his figurative reliefs in metal, made in the spirit of poetic Symbolism, Surrealism and fantasy and a direct and coarse expressive style. A significant moment in his artistic biography is his membership in the Biafra Group (1970 – 1978), which problematised the issues of contemporary humanism in its cultural and social context, but also the relationship with contemporary visual art trends, especially Abstract art, advocating engagement and expressive figuration marked by naturalism and distortions. The group’s usual strategy was to organise exhibitions and actions in the streets and public spaces in Croatia and abroad. Lesiak’s drawings and print sheets, critically intoned towards the consumer society and contemporary civilisation, are executed in keeping with this strategy.
Lesiak made the metal relief Massacre of the Innocents in 1976, which is also characterised by the synthesis of the artist’s earlier minimalist poetic Symbolism with a rougher texture and the particularly harsh engaged messages of his ‘Biafra’ years, which were becoming increasingly obvious and dominant in Lesiak’s work. The gruesomeness of the scene, appearing like some eerie satellite image, combines the typical visuality of modern technologies with deliberate connotations to archaic design, just as the horrific theme of the scene evokes associations to the suffering of the innocents in all (historical and contemporary) injustices and wars, but also the biblical account of Herod’s slaughter of innocent children. Accordingly, Lesiak’s universal message is balanced on a formal and substantive level.
Text: dr.sc. Ivana Rončević Elezović, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić