Time Drawing, 1966
Drawing, ink, coloured ink on paper
In 1970, Robert Altman, an American filmmaker, directed the Oscar-winning film M.A.S.H. which depicts the daily life of American medical personnel in the background of the Korean war. The film poster was designed by Arsen Roje, a native of Split, who in 1966 moved, first to Paris and then New York, and who has, until recently, been virtually unknown in the Croatian art milieu. Prior to his departure, Roje had enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, but quickly clashed with that educational environment. “He did not like the rigidity, academic art, realism, or anything else that was valued in art at that time”, explains his wife today. Roje’s drawings are the first examples of Pop art in Croatia, as well as in Yugoslav art. They abound in popular American cultural references, but he will garner attention and success in the world of film, not so much for his motifs – sports cars, revolvers, women’s lips, popular typography, etc. – but because of how he connects or composes them. This is equally visible in the example we showcase here, as well as the award-winning poster for the movie M.A.S.H., in which Roje connects three motifs, a military helmet, woman’s bare legs and the human fist, in a humanoid figure. On the other hand, in the “Time Drawing” Roje does not try to amalgamate the motifs, but he treats them independently of one another. Their interconnectedness also appears accidental, and it seems as if each of them, in their own way, are trying to hold the attention of the observer. At the very bottom of the scene, Roje wrote placart, a neologism that plays with the meaning of some English and Croatian words. In English, placard means any notice in public space, while plakat in Croatian also means a notice in public space, but specifically a notice that is printed and reproduced on paper. Roje’s neologism could thus in both languages be translated as the art of making posters or the art of graphic design.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior 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