Curatorial work, among other things, and especially in museums that safeguard material from the past, consists in giving titles to exhibits and museum objects. Some artists do not feel the need to title all of their works. In the case of donations, the museum often ends up with works that the artists have not publicly shown, so they did not title them. In other words, there are many cases in which works of art are subsequently titled; among them are some of the most famous artworks in the world, but that is a different story. Let us go back to Slava Gvozdić! She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1954. From 1965, she worked as an independent artist, and she studied design in Toronto in the period from 1967-69.
This lithograph shows a woman seated in the interior in front of a window. A sewing machine before her, her head is bowed, and she seems to be engaged in some meticulous work. She is shown in profile, but very summarily. The entire scene is defined by large black and non-blackened surfaces, which represent a window and something resembling a parapet and a mirror. We nevertheless can discern that the woman is wearing glasses and there is a sewing machine in front of her. The act of reading presupposes a book or newspapers, some text, but none of that is visible in the lithograph. It is less important who titled the lithograph, the artist or the curator, than what made them recognize reading in the scene, rather than sewing. In fact, there is something in this scene that is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s novels, of the self-education undertaken by her heroines and the temptations they go through to become emancipated from the control of men. Work for self-preservation that is represented by the sewing machine, on the one hand, and self-education as a type of work undertaken in time of leisure, which is associated by the contemplative atmosphere of the scene, on the other hand, is the formula that begins every human emancipation, regardless of gender, class or race.
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