Historical Perspective on Visual Art from 1960's to 1990's
The history of 20th century visual art has in Slovakia a distinct dynamic of change, long characterised, given the political context, rather by spasm than by regularity, by forcible interruptions than by continuous progress. In the latter half of the century alone, the impetus to a dynamic development has been unnaturally arrested a number of times by the installation and entrenchment of authoritarian regimes and the imposition upon art of ideological criteria (Socialist Realism in the 1950's; the clamp-down known as "normalisation" following the failure of 1968 and lasting into the late 1980's). The discontinuity is most vividly illustrated by the coinings which it introduced into the domestic art discourse: "white place"(1), a modern version of the Latin damnatio memoriae, and "islands of positive deviancy (2), reflecting the schizoid society of topsy-turvy values in which our art operated up to 1989.
The collapse of the Iron Curtain evoked a fervid interest in the West in the art of the countries of the former Eastern bloc. The unofficial art of the former Soviet Union proved particularly enticing given its evident otherness, the issue of both a crossbreeding of various traditions (including non-European ones) and a clear and very legible political context, an example of the latter being the great popularity of the installations of Ilja Kabakov, which constantly refer to the realities of Soviet existence although the artist himself took up permanent residence in New York. A more reserved reception of the art of the other post-communist countries (3), including that of the former Czechoslovakia and, hence, of Slovakia, has been due to the nature of the work itself, which quite consciously upheld - in defiance of ideological coercion and circumstances inimical to creative work - a spirit of continuity with the progress of European art. The Slovak art of recent decades is one easily legible in terms of trends in Euro-American art (from abstract art through pop art, kinetic art, various versions of conceptual art including land art, body art and action art, to postmodernism and new media). Its singularity rests not on radical difference from the art of the West, but on a principle of variance - in other words, the perspective is from within the same tendency in art and looking to a common philosophical hinterland and a wide range of possible individual approaches to the same concern (4). A very patent example of this is the Slovak variant of kinetic art in the dynamic constructivism of Milan Dobeš (b. 1929), which the artist advanced in parallel with the international movement of this tendency by exponents such as Le Parc, Morellet and Soto(5) and which did not go unnoticed by the leading critics and theorists of the day(6). Geometrical abstraction found its Slovak variant in the intense work of Alojz Klimo (b. 1922), concrete art in the work of Štefan Belohradský (b. 1930), lettrism in that of Miloš Urbásek (1932-1988), informelle in that of Marián Čunderlík (1926-1983), conceptual art in that of Rudolf Sikora (b. 1946) and performance in that of Vladimír Kordoš (b. 1945). In the case of another Slovak artist, Alex Mlynarčík (b. 1934), the first contact with the activities of the French group of nouveau réalisme was a period in which he identified with its basic conception, which only initiated his future international activity. Joint projects and personal friendship with the theorist of the group, Pierre Restany(7), and other artists of this circle drew him into the centre of events on the art scene of the time. His repeated returns to Slovakia (8) and the execution of dozens of seminal projects elicited a vigorous response and exerted a powerful influence on Slovak art as a whole (9).
But the artists mentioned so far were by no means the only ones whose work reacted to the stimuli of - at least central European - trends and disseminated, sensitised and refined the philosophy of modern and, later, postmodern art. There are dozens of artists whose authentic work has since 1989 been integrated into the international context from which it vanished in the political aftermath of 1968. They include the whole generation of the 1960's, as well as "classics" and artists coming to maturity in the following decades and entering an alternative art scene that by then had already been formed in opposition to a second wave of Socialist Realism.
It would appear that the model of the 1960's, constructed on the principle of an open society in which pluralism and the multiculturalism of the domestic context provided the foundations, had a positive effect on art.
The intersecting and cross-fertilisation of diverse impulses, the discomposing of cultural stereotypes and the spoiling of Slovakia's isolation were the stuff from which domestic art lived and regenerated itself during the time of totalitarianism (10) and which would engender in the course of the decades to come some very distinct variants not only of art of the 1960's (which can only be seen as a model situation), but also of the conceptual art and postmodernism (11) which prevailed in the following decades.
This brief excursion into a slender tranche of Slovak art in the latter half of the 20th century highlights first and foremost the importance of circumstances congenial to creative work. The latent vitality of Slovak art is clearly articulated when ideological constraints are relaxed (as in the thaws of the late 1950s and the 1980's), when the vision of a blemishless domestic art born only of folk tradition is rejected, and when the Euro-American context is not viewed as alien and hostile. Paradoxically, the Slovak variant of Modernism does also apply to that line of modern art which did, in fact, assume the folk tradition as one of its points of departure. The best works of Ľudovít Fulla (1902-1980), Vladimír Kompánek (b. 1927), Andrej Rudavský (b. 1933) and Milan Laluha (b. 1930) have been created in contact with, and full awareness of, European culture.
If one premise of Slovak art is variance, there is also another criterion which complements it and lends it definition. It is clear that art in Slovakia, which geography and history have made a cultural crossroads, rests on traditional models of cultural behaviour. The assumption and transformation of impulses from the world around functions on the proviso that the home soil is sufficiently well tilled (12).
One distinct line of Slovak art of the latter half of the 20th century is the enormous interest of artists of various generations and inclinations in questions of citation and gloss of extrinsic artefacts. In Slovakia, the discovery of the principle of art reflecting art belongs, once again, to the 1960's. One of its variants are the actions of Alex Mlynárčik. Although he executed his environment Bonjour, monsieur Courbet in 1969 in Paris, the Snow Festival, which is associated with the first manifesto of interpretation in Slovakia, was staged the year after with a circle of close friends in the High Tatras. A second line are the quotations, allusions, camouflages, interventions and evocations of Rudolf Fila (b. 1932) involving drawing and painting (or "painting over"). The intensity of interest is illustrated in the repeated editions of the action Shift - Bratislava Championships in the Shifting of the Artefact, initiated by artist Dezider Tóth (b. 1947) (13). Between 1979 and 1986 dozens of artists from the unofficial scene took part in the event, the names occurring most frequently being, in addition to that of Tóth himself, Rudolf Fila, Daniel Fischer, Vladimír Kordoš, Matej Krén, Otis Laubert, Marián Mudroch, Milan Bočkay, Peter Meluzin and Ladislav Čarný, in all of whose work art reflecting art is one of the hallmarks. The incorporation procedures and tactics employed range from literal citations, through allusion to a work in absentia, live performance, objects and installations to photography. Reverence binds with ironic detachment and persiflage, absorbed exegesis with impersonal description of surface, empathy with image analysis. Artists cited include Leonardo, Rembrandt and Caravaggio, as well as Malevich, Duchamp and Warhol. As the 1980s progressed other artists, including Ľubomír Stacho, Ján Krížik, Peter Rónai and Simona Bubánová-Tauchmannová, joined the ranks and the expressive register expanded (14). The art of the past becomes an open space, the annexing of whose mental terrain satiates the desires of cultural nomads and at the same time fine-tunes questions aimed at discovering Man’s attitude at century's close to the phenomenon of memory and to the process of forgetting and re-remembering. One of the most convincing examples of this concern is an installation by Ladislav Čarný which has the Latin title Putrefactio est omnium rerum mater (Putrification is the mother of all things). The artist infected fourteen casts of one of the "character heads" of Baroque sculptor F. X. Messerschmidt with putrefactive bacteria and during the course of the exhibition (Váh Region Gallery, Žilina 1995) presented the process of their progressive decay. In this installation quotation is associated with the idea of recycling. At the end of the century art renounces its will to originality and from available strategies offers as a new possibility the return of forgotten ideas into cultural circulation.
Another theme which has found receptive soil in Slovakia is that of the book as object. It has been one of many threads in the work of Rudolf Fila since as early as the 1970's, and is intimately bound with the artist's strategy of painting glosses of, and interventions into, the raw material of printed matter found by chance, such as the pages of technical manuals or leaves torn from calendars. He very soon progressed to a systematic glossing of entire books (15), to a dramatic remodelling of the surface of pages, which his magician's hand fills with intriguing and malevolent gestures. In Fila's interpretation the book, separated from its pragmatic associations, becomes a fetish. Dezider Tóth, on the other hand, uses books of various authors and of diverse content as a pure art medium, like the letters of a new visual alphabet. Placed on shelves, their surface painted over and their information frozen, they become a space for a new meaning. The open cycle with the title Reservation (starting in 1991) (16) constitutes only one facet of his manipulation with the book. Since 1983 Tóth has created a series of objects (The Book in an Antenatal State) in which he works with text separated from the body of the book. In both of these controversial procedures we are presented with the deconstruction of a cultural phenomenon which, as the result of new technologies, is losing its status of privileged medium. Interest in the book as an art object is equally strong among Slovakia's younger artists. The work of Matej Krén (b. 1958) is an example of intellectual equipment allied with a nice appreciation of material. As far back as 1991 he created an installation with the title The History of Art, in which he brought into question the concept of the book as an archive of ideas, of usable information. Employing chemicals, he obliterated the content of the ten volumes of Pijoan's popular history of art and transferred them onto canvas. In Krén's interpretation the book is merely a half-way house of information, a stop-off between the abstract thought of the author and the equally immaterial information which falls into the possession of the recipient. This arresting artist appeared at the 23rd Sao Paulo biennial (1994) with the installation Idiom, a five-metre-tall tower constructed of "information" (17) and using hundreds of books as both a primary building material and as metaphor. An illusion of unmeasured space created by a system of mirrors within the object suggested kinship with the immateriality of electronic communication highways. The artist's idea of creating an illusory axis across the whole planet and finishing this project, which he began in 1991, with installations of Idiom in two libraries across the world (Paris and Sydney) has still to be implemented. The book as art object is also the focus of intense interest by a recent graduate of Bratislava's Academy of Fine Arts and Design (18), Roman Ondák (b. 1966). In one of his first works, Destinies of Modern Art (1993), he employs a deliberately chosen category of professional literature, namely that of art history. Depositing examples in formaldehyde in glass specimen jars is a subtle ironic game which casts art as the only subject of itself. This tautology, rendered visible by a perfect aesthetic of the sterile medical environment, creates a powerful tension and a precisely calculated emotional coercion. Ondák has produced other works on a similar template, formulating, with the ironic distance that is so much his own, the idea of books as preserved food in which not only is the potential of edifying spiritual fare encoded, but the question of art consumption is also highlighted (Satiated Library, 1995; Satiated Table, 1996). It is an idea he also refined in the installation The Taste of Thinking at the exhibition of artists of central and eastern Europe in Pittsburgh (19).
It is heartening that reviews of this exhibition revealed some signs of a revision of attitudes towards the art of the postcommunist countries. No longer is it the soupcon of the exotic which excites interest, but the stunning realisation of how directly the art of this region is able to address contemporary Man regardless of nationality and historical context (20). It would seem that Marshall McLuhan's vision of the world as global village may turn out to have its positive side.
Installation is another area of art which has found a ready soil in Slovakia. Over the last three decades dozens of artists have addressed this medium, and their achievements have been remarkable.
The atmosphere of the relaxed 1960's was, here again, decisive. The first proto-installations appeared in the latter half of the decade (particularly in its closing years) and are the outcome of a crossbreeding of several strategies. In some of them we trace the transformation of the sculpture into a visual art object, as is the case in the work of Jozef Jankovič (b. 1937) (21); another type of installation emerges from the contact with action art (Július Koller, Dezider Tóth), but the most frequently recurrent model is environment. In 1967 Jana Želibská (b. 1941) introduced the suggestion of installation in her conception for an exhibition entitled The Possibility of Uncovering, to progress only two years later to installing the pure environment Kandarya Mahadeva (Václav Špála Gallery, Prague 1969). Stanislav Filko (b. 1937) created - between 1966 and 1969 - a number of noteworthy environments (Room of Love, 1966; Cathedral, 1968), as did Ivan Štěpán (1937-1986). The first wave of activity in installation culminated at the end of the 1960's with a number of group actions. Pre-eminent among them was an international biennial of sculpture by young artists established under the title Danuvius ('68) (22), and the international show known as The Sculpture of Piešťany's Parks in 1969 (23). Two important events took place in 1970 which mirrored the change in the country's political climate and its spiritual atmosphere in the wake of Czechoslovakia's occupation by Soviet troops. While the First Open Studio was held in the privacy of Rudolf Sikora's studio (24) and heralded the retreat of authentic art into an enclave of the alternative, the intermedia project Polymusal Space I (25) signals a definitive end to the social acceptability of progressive art and to the promising development of the art of installation.
The advent of "normalisation", which imposed greater hardship on daily life, had a direct negative effect on the future of installation. Without an institutional and financial hinterland, it continued to develop only fitfully, in the circle of alternative art formed on a private basis. Although its residues were to be found at the Bratislava Championships in the Shift of the Artefact, it reappeared in strength only at the end of the 1980's. Starting in 1986, Otis Laubert (b. 1946) staged a series of installations in the basement of a house which culminated in 1988 with the outstanding Avcájder (a phonetic rendering of the English "outsider", here alluding to lost and forgotten articles found by the artist and providing the raw material of the installation) which had been conceived back in 1985 and which after the Revolution the artist presented to great acclaim at the international Metropolis exhibition at the Martin Gropius-Bau in Berlin (1990). Some months before the collapse of the communist system the basement of a house on Bratislava's Konventná ulica (street) was the venue for an exhibition entitled Basement, which presented a pure form of installation (site-specific art) by seven domestic artists (26) and which in a certain sense prefigured what was to come. Since 1989 installation has enjoyed a qualitative and quantitative growth (27).
In 1991 the basement of Žilina's Váh Region Gallery hosted the exhibition Genius Loci, conceived by Katarína Rusnáková. The opening of these Gothic premises - which had previously been inaccessible to the public - for site-specific art and in the name of seeking "the spirit of place", elicited interesting responses from young artists. The purest visual articulation came from Žilina artist Roman Galovský (b. 1966) in a simple light installation which replicated the surface of one of the Gothic rooms. The Váh Region Gallery has played a major part in the nurturing of installation, notably in the exhibitions Dream of a Museum (1991), in which the form was prevalent (28), and Objects and Installations (1992), which were devoted to it, and, above all, in the experimental exhibition Mystery (1993), located amid the singular architecture of an otherwise unused attic. The Gallery is also unrivalled in its systematic research of the latest trends in installation art, exemplified in the 1994 international exhibition of video-installations video-vidím-ich sehe (29) whose participants included Peter Meluzin, Peter Rónai and Jana Želibská.
One of the accompanying signs of a heightened interest in installation in Slovakia is its percolation beyond the capital, Bratislava, to regional cultural centres (30). In this, significant support has come from the Soros Center for Contemporary Arts in Bratislava, whose annual exhibitions, staged in regional galleries in Trnava (Ján Koniarek Gallery; Labyrinths, 1993) and Žilina (Váh Region Art Gallery; Marginalia, 1994), have borne remarkable fruit, particularly in installation. The Center also bestows annual awards, recipients to date including Roman Ondák and Laco Teren. The vitality of installation events is mostly due to young curators.
In 1992 devastated parts of Banská Bystrica's barbican were the venue for an exhibition of installations which included participants from abroad and was conceived by the then director of the town's State Gallery, Alena Vrbanová. Barbican '92 offered a number of installations based on dialogue between present and past, the most noteworthy from the domestic contingent being those by Július Koller and Juraj Bartusz. The event turned out to be not just a presentation of current work, but also an indirect plea for the preservation of a historical site. In the encouragement of this raised interest in installation much is owed to the cogently formulated ideas of the curators, for whom this medium is an ideal way of expressing their views, in collaboration with artists, on current themes, such as cultural identity, cultural memory or recycling in art.
Installation has found a second pillar of systematic support in Eastern Slovakia. In 1992 the curator and art critic V. Beskid inaugurated an international symposium in Prešov under the name Laboratory, whose underlying remit is communication between neighbouring regions in central Europe (Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Hungary). In its initial year installations were staged in the historical core of the town, to be followed in the 1994 second edition by the historical building of a disused steam-electric power station in Poprad and six protected areas in the High Tatras (31). The subtext of the project brought out the themes of Man - society - landscape, with the accent on the positive and negative consequences of their interrelations. The power station had been made available as a venue of the Tatras Gallery the previous year for a project entitled Northern England in Northern Slovakia. The project curator, Lucia Benická, summed up its significance within the project as follows: "...the crude hulk of the power station... A building of Poesque atmosphere, bizarre, vast, desolate, cold... A perfect maw of absurd ideas, a meditative hole, a creative temple, a gold mine of inspiration." (32) In the same year (1993) this very distinct space hosted an exhibition of installations (Power Station T), among the more interesting of which were Jana Želibská's video Dialogue, an installation by the duo Viktor Oravec and Milan Pagáč entitled Steam - Dream (an allusion to the building's erstwhile function) and Peter Meluzin's vitally serious installation Life after Life, ironically commenting the victims of mass-media consumption. The Oravec-Pagáč duo (both born in 1960) and Meluzin (b. 1947) are, in fact, among those artists in Slovakia producing some very intriguing work in installation. Oravec and Pagáč, who have been working in tandem since the 1980's, operate between two controversial poles. On the one hand is formal minimalism (frequently employing glass and the cold aesthetic of industrially manufactured technical requisites), on the other a surprisingly expressive magical effect, the result predominantly of painstaking work with light (33) and allusions to electrical energy as a distinct art material (the installation Danger! High Voltage!). These qualities made them a natural choice to create a special light installation for the Czechoslovak pavilion at the Seville EXPO in 1991. The work of Peter Meluzin has similarly acquired a greater dynamic since 1989 as a result of new opportunities to exhibit. The transition from the level of conceptual art (dominant since the time it functioned in unofficial culture) to that of large-scale projections has taken place without the forfeit of Meluzin's distinctive traits. These include humour, wit, ironic detachment and self-depreciating comment, fondness for linguistic games, allusions and mystifications. This seeming levity and misprisal (34) combines surprisingly with a moral appeal. The installation Life after Life and the 1994 video installation But be careful! (quoting a passage from Alvin Toffler's Future Shock) were framed in these same terms. For the open-air project Space '93 (35) Meluzin created a monumental installation entitled Megalith, an environment in which he juxtaposed the present with the archetypal symbolism of a prehistoric structure, namely Stonehenge. This disquisition on a lost era of human innocence was derived from a quotation from Proust which was displayed continuously on illuminated hoardings recalling the advertisements in a big city.
In 1994 the power station in Poprad was joined by another off-beat exhibition venue, a refurbished synagogue in Trnava run by the Ján Koniarek Gallery, which, since that year, has organised a loose cycle of exhibitions under the title The Art of Aura (36). This sacred space, gravid with the tragic fate of the Jews, underpinned by the building's late-19th-century aesthetic, has proved stimulating for contemporary art and, especially, for installation. The last two years have witnessed some ambitious projects by a number of Slovak artists (37). It is heartening that not only seasoned artists such as Ladislav Čarný, Otis Laubert and Daniel Fischer have been able to respond to such a discriminating architectural and intellectual space, but also younger exponents. In the third instalment of the cycle the husband-and-wife team of Monika and Bohuš Kubinský (both born in 1966) presented an intermedia project entitled Story, in which the visual element (water, light, slide-projection, laser and sulphur object) and the acoustic element (a mosaic of compositions by I. Szeghy shared equal billing. The Story project is an interesting contribution to the discussion on the forms of art in the 1990's, above all in its rehabilitation of direct sensuous experience and the expressive value of particular material (here a mass of water inundating the floor of the synagogue to a height of 30 cm) in the perception of a work of art. For the fifth instalment of the cycle Ilona Németh (b. 1963) created the installation Labyrinth, a gross, forbidding structure which questioned our impression of the labyrinth as a pure, aesthetic ornament. Ilona Németh is an artist whose installations presuppose unreserved participation by the viewer. She works consciously with the motif of journey, the need for the viewer to walk and to have physical contact with the work and its aggressiveness (knife blades used in the 1992 installation Gate, whacking canes in an installation from 1994). Ilona Németh's thought process is in perfect harmony with the absolute intuition on whose basis she materialises her projects. She chooses very out-of-the-way materials (brushwood, straw, bags of sand, blocks of unfired brick, human hair, etc.) which are deeply embedded in the collective unconscious of our cultural memory. Her work is one of the most distinctive contributions of young art in Slovakia.
One of the most recent projects created for the Synagogue in Trnava was the installation Memento by Daniel Fischer (b. 1950) (38). The artist has taken his inspiration from René Thom's catastrophe theory, which interprets the reasons for, and demonstrates the process of, the destruction of existing systems (the so-called Zeeman effect). While in the exact sciences the term catastrophe is ethically indifferent, in Fischer's Memento the emphasis is placed precisely on the critical state of morality in the society we inhabit. The words illuminated in the final phase of the installation - complacency, stupidity, arrogance, hate, deception, intolerance, egoism, aggressiveness, fanaticism - denominate the reasons of this state of affairs with absolute precision. Despite the fact that the artist draws on scientific inputs (using in the installation an artistically transformed Zeeman machine), the ultimate aspect of the installation is characterised by an immediate visual communication and powerful emotive resonance which is bolstered by references to the tragedy of the holocaust.
My view of art in the 1990's has been influenced by the prism of the 1960's because the political easing which governed the spirit of the times thirty years ago was in principle repeated in 1989. If the 1970's and 1980's were years of bated breath and 1989 the year of exhalation, the 1990's are years of a new intensification of creative work. Despite the many downsides there are at present (more than anything the economic consequences for culture of a society in transformation, though also the absence of a systematic teaching of modern art, which manifests itself in hostility towards the new and the unknown), the 1990's have created an important precedence for our culture. It would appear that the return of our domestic art into the circulation of at least European cultural commerce is an irreversible process. Thanks to new technologies the vision of the spiritual domain as an illimited territory of open communication is becoming a reality. Slovakia is today so networked into the world that the electronic highways already in place ensure its place in the great global village. Any endeavour at isolation is technologically impossible.
After 1971, the year in which the 14th Congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia approved the Lessons from the Crisis in the Party and Society, not only were the names of dozens of artists expunged from official culture, but works themselves were destroyed. In 1971, for example, Oskár Čepan's book Tatlínova iniciatíva (Tatlin's Initiative) was pulped; the following year a sculpture group by Jozef Jankovič was removed from the Slovak National Uprising memorial at Banská Bystrica, and in 1976 the same artist's fountain in the Bratislava estate of Pošen was destroyed, as were outdoor sculptures by other artists, including Rudavský, Uher and Kočíš.
(2) The sociologist Soňa Szomolányiová wrote on the eve of the revolution (Literárny týždenník 11/89) of "positive deviancy" as a resistance to "bad rules of the game".
(3) The attempt to establish a specialised fair for art of the former Eastern Bloc, Art Hamburg '93, was typically in the spirit of the boom in Russian art.
(4) Prof. Tomáš Štrauss published a samizdat entitled Slovenský variant moderny (The Slovak Variant of Modernism) (Bratislava 1979) which was the first attempt at a synopsis of this period of Slovak art and was based on the practical application of the principle of variance.
(5) Dobeš took part in formative international exhibitions such as Kunst-Licht-Kunst (Eindhoven 1968) and Konstruktive Tendenzen (Nueremberg 1968), as well as the Documenta 4 exhibition in Kassel.
(6) Those writing on Dobeš's work include F. Popper, U. Kultermann and O. Bihalji-Merin.
(7) Pierre Restany: Inde (Elsewhere). Alex Mlynárčik, Slovak National Gallery 1995, Lara Vincy Gallery, Paris on the occasion of Mlynárčik's sixtieth birthday.
(8) Given the political situation, it was only rarely that Mlynarčík was able to travel abroad after 1970. In the short span of 1970 to 1972 he carried out seminal projects and moved from the public art scene into the privacy of his studio.
(9) As well as the so-called sociological happening (Happsoc, 1965) of Mlynárčik and Filko, which had already anticipated conceptual art, these were actions in the nature of celebration or ritual which sent a ripple through a wide circle of Slovak artists (in addition to Mlynárčik: Želibská, Peter Bartoš, Vladimír Popovič, and part of the work of Milan Adamčiak, Robert Cyprich and Juraj Bartusz). Even if Mlynarčík withdrew from the public scene art in 1972 and his extensive oeuvre was not addressed systematically until 1994 (when a monograph by Pierre Restany appeared in French), his myth was a mainspring in subsequent development. A certain parallel to Happsoc can be discerned in the sociologically inclined actions of Ján Budaj, which at a time of heightened political pressure at the end of 1970's tried for a renewal of authentic experience and liberation from political and cultural rituals. The Temporary Society of Intense Experiencing (1979-81) is in a certain sense an island of positive deviancy, as the principle of defying bad rules would later be dubbed by sociologist Soňa Szomolányiová.
Artists who during the totalitarian period maintained a zone of free art were either active participants of the 1960's (including Jankovič, Fila, Juraj Meliš, Vladimír Popovič, Milan Paštéka and Vladimír Kompánek) or emerged on the art scene at the turn of the 1960's and 1970's, with the core of their work coming in the following decade (for example, Sikora, Tóth, Kordoš, Mudroch and Laubert).
(11) The ascension of postmodernism in Slovakia in the latter half of the 1980's came with a political thaw which had a beneficial effect on the renewal of direct communication with European and world art.
(12) This prerequisite is introduced in connection with Medieval art in Slovakia by Prof. Ján Bakoš (In: Dejiny a koncepcie stredovekého umenia na Slovensku, [The History and Concept of Medieval Art in Slovakia] Bratislava 1994).
(13) The articles of the event set out the condition of participation: the creation of a work which would react to the work of another artist familiar from the history of art and in keeping with the given theme (e.g., Sensuality, 1979; Touch, 1980, Doubling, 1981; Light, 1985)
(14) In 1990 an exhibition was staged in Bratislava with the title Interpretation and Reinterpretation, which summarised this phenomenon for the first time. In 1993 the exhibition Cultural Identity was held, again in Bratislava, as part of the international Close Encounters project. The domestic artists invited were given the opportunity to gloss non-contemporary works of art in the collections of Bratislava Municipal Gallery.
(15) Fila's work with the book has been very revealingly interpreted by the French philosopher and art theorist E. Cornevin in the catalogue to one of the artist's exhibitions (Rudolf Fila. Exhibition Room of the LEAGUE of Slovak Artists. Dostojevského rad, Bratislava 1998), by Jiří Valoch in the introduction to the exhibition Books, Objects, Galerie Mladých, Brno 1990, and by the Austrian action artist Arnuf Rainer (Profil 8-9-10/94, p. 21).
(16) The latest installation of the cycle was created for the Epicurus's Garden exhibition, Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava, 1996.
(17) At the 1994 Sao Paulo biennial Matej Krén was awarded a prize as the most successful artist. His installation was created within a concept of the then director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Arts in Bratislava, Ada Krnáčová.
(18) In the wake of the 1989 revolution, the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava underwent a fundamental reorganisation. Teaching staff were completely replaced, sculptor Jozef Jankovič was elected vice-chancellor (Rector) and artists of quality, in most cases adherents of the former alternative scene, became heads of studio. They included Sikora, Fischer, Bartusz, Meliš and Popovič. The present Rector, architecture scholar Štefan Šlachta, continues in encouraging the Academy's inclination to contemporary art trends.
(19) Roman Ondák was one of seven Slovak artists who in 1995 were invited for a month's stay at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, during which he created an installation in situ. The exhibition, in which the Slovak participants were Fischer, Čarný, Tóth, Stacho and Meluzin, was a sister event of Carnegie International.
C. Potter's paraphrase: Pittsburgh Newsweekly, January 25-31, 1996.
(21) As early as 1968 Jankovič received the Grand Prix at Danuvius '68 for The Great Fall, an exploration of spatial relations.
(22) Preparations and staging of the event were carried out under the shadow of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet forces.
23) The general curator of the two events was art critic Ľubor Kára. Both had a strong contingent from abroad.
(24) Participants of the event, which was held at Tehelná ulica 32, Bratislava, were: Milan Adamčiak, Peter Bartoš, Václav Cigler, Robert Cyprich, Milan Dobeš, Igor Gazdík, Vladimír Jakubík, Július Koller, Vladimír Kordoš, I. Kříž, Otis Laubert, Juraj Meliš, Alex Mlynárčik, Marián Mudroch, Rudolf Sikora, Ivan Štěpan, Dezider Tóth, Miloš Urbásek and Jana Želibská.
(25) This event, staged outdoors on the "spa island" in the well-known spa resort of Piešťany, was dominated by environment pieces drawing on the characteristics of the natural surroundings.
(26) The event was conceived by Radislav Matuštík, and the artists responding to the site were Jana Želibská, Július Koller, Milan Adamčiak, Viktor Oravec-Milan Pagáč, Matej Krén and Peter Rónai.
(27) As early as 1992 an exhibition of Slovak artists was held at the Museum am Ostwall in Dortmund, Germany entitled Between Object and Installation. Those taking part in the exhibition, which included a modest excursion into the past, were predominantly contemporary artists, who created installations specially for the museum.
(28) The exhibition was staged at the suggestion of Alex Mlynárčik, who became director of the museum following the revolution (holding the post in the period 1990-1991), and conceived by Radislav Matuštík.
(29) The last three exhibitions referred to were conceived by Katarína Rusnáková. In the case of video - vidím -ich sehe she was one of three curators.
Zora Rusinová's work at the Slovak National Gallery is an exception. The 1995 installation exhibition Pars pro toto and the Epicurus's Garden project of 1996 and some projects of Ivan Jančár at the Bratislava Municipal Gallery.
(31) Slovak participants for the two years were: Mária Bartuszová, Juraj Bartusz, Ladislav Čarný, Peter Kalmus, Július Koller, Peter Rónai, Otis Laubert, Peter Lipkovič, Andrea Lipkovičová, Štefan Potočňák., I Šafranko, Ľubomír Stacho and Ilona Németh.
(32) Profil 4/93, p. 26
(33) The magic of light plays a part in most of the installations. Two tones of light were the sole medium of the installation Murky Medium (Bratislava Municipal Gallery, 1993).
(34) In 1994 he created, for example, the pithy installation Kunst - Koonst, its title a humorous yoking of the German word for art and the name of the American artist Jeff Koons.
(35) The exhibition was conceived by Ľubor Kára and staged outdoors in the spa town of Piešťany in 1993.
(36) The cycle was inspired by Walter Benjamin's thesis (presented in an essay of 1936) of the loss of the aura of a work of art as a result of the technical reproducibility of modern art.
(37) (Emoke Vargová in a joint exhibition with Czech artist Jan Ambruz, Ladislav Čarný, Dušan Zahoranský, Bohuš Kubinský, Monika Kubinská, Ilona Németh, Anna Fedáková, Otis Laubert and Daniel Fischer.)
(38) Daniel Fischer is one of the most interesting of Slovak artists. His intermedia installation Infinity was presented at the Czechoslovak pavilion at the Venice biennial of 1993.
Received on 2003-02-28