The 25th Miskolc Tri-annual for Graphic Art | FRESH 2011 | A Passage to the Past – The Era of Hungarian Silent Film | Visas for Life, 1944-45.
Gábor Rieder: The 25th Miskolc Tri-annual for Graphic Art
Dating back to a cobwebbed past of half a century, the Miskolc Bi-annuals for Graphic Art have been re-named Grafitri for short since they have turned into Tri-Annuals with this exhibition. Also, some new talent has been drawn in and new satellite shows are offered. It is a complex experience leading us from the past right to the future.
A Past with a Cobweb
In essence, this is the same old Miskolc show that has never had anything to do with the multi-million dollar bi-annual business done by roving star-curators from Shanghai to Berlin. This is, after all, one of the most backward of Hungary’s counties, and the bi-annuals’ time-honoured theme, i.e. the serigraph in art owes most of its present standing to its 60s-70s golden age nourished by Communist Party sponsorship. Back then there was quite a lot of giveaway money to be spent on graphic workshops and their machinery, a network selling graphic art products nationwide, and a publishing industry that promptly printed graphic art fit to illustrate new books.
And there were still the great graphic artists like impossible-to-pigeonhole Béla Kondor, or Picasso-paraphrasing Lajos Szalay. The latter’s memorial room in the house dedicated to the Petró Collection hosts, as a satellite show of the Tri-annual, a selection of the works of the most notable awardees of the bi-annual series. Looking at the selection, the overall effect of the selection is a style mixing Picasso’s style with that of Béla Kondor. Craftsmanship in etchings above all, then a world of magic fairy-tales, angels’ wings, machines, children’s toys, etc. It was only around 1990 that the jury first tried to part with this lofty world entangled in the artists’ complicated finger exercises. The attempt to break away was not wholly convincing.
An Eclectic Present
In a sense, the time for graphic art has only just arrived. The world-wide financial crunch has deprived oil-painting of most of its creative energies. Today, most painters have turned to scribbles and tentative watercolours. This has indeed been the best time to rid the bi-annual series of some of its cobwebs. Not that the mainstream of the artists participating at Graphitri could expect to win the Grand Lion of the Venice Bi-annual. We can admire cubic houses on silky lithographs in the manner of Paul Klee; we can also see classic Hungarian themes like The Yawning Apprentice re-done by a digital technique; and also some time-honoured, nostalgic techniques, but most of the works are degraded by their glass cut to size and fixed with four metal clips to the fibreboard below.
The grand award has gone to Kamilla Szíj for her dry-point sections of circles adding up to fuzzy threads half-suggesting hands, stairs, and human contours. For a more traditional approach, István Orosz amazes the viewers by another of his tromp l’oeil etchings, one that reels up Dürer’s Unicorn upon and among the columns of a Renascence portico. László Valkó, for his part, has spectacularly re-played classic paintings on a computer generated field of ruins. Fatime Germán has etched a thong upon a dotted female buttock, András Balla has recorded female hair on experimental photo-paper, and Ádám Albert has put serigraphs upon tops of oven pans. And lest we forget, there is also the odd artist’s book, several old-fashioned etchings, and dozens of either uninteresting or all-too-familiar solutions.
A Trendy Future
I order to add a fresh look to the freely submitted, largely eclectic stuff exhibited, curators have organised a show of invited artists entitled Mimetic Structures, a show aiming to re-define the complex notion of multiplication in today’s art. In other words, the show has brought together a large amount of conceptual works executed by young artists quite well-known from their recent appearances in the top circle of trade galleries, the Palace of the Arts, or the Budapest Ludwig Museum. The show could be advertised by any number of other titles, but the actual title Mimetic Structures invoking the process of copying is also fine.
As to Ádám Kokesch, he has submitted a small glass painting of his that had almost perished during the process of copying. The team called Gruppo Shrimp proudly present their true-to-life copies of actual street graffiti. Júlia Vécsei’s carbon-paper drawings are said to fade away when exposed to the Sun, which is a case of negative multiplication.
The curators have collected all possible kinds of multiplication. Mariann Fa had stolen a timetable from a bus-stop urging angry travellers to visit the show for a look at it. Csaba Nemes has animated a documentary film with the watercolours he had sketched while making interviews with Gipsy residents of a slum. Ádám Szabó had asked an Indian plumber to hammer out his TV monitors from metal plates, and he added the breaks of TV transmission by covering them with cloths that he had woven out of cotton. Erika Baglyas has typed the lines of Dies Irae in Latin upon toilet paper recalling the tragic worldview of poet György Petri.
Right next to this work, the last piece of the freely submitted stuff is an installation by Beatrix Szörényi in which she has drawn the grains of a marble slab with pencil adding this comment with a piece of electric cable: “We imitate the real but only as long as we do not come upon something better.” Somewhat bitter, this comment, no doubt, but quite compatible with the new language of graphic art.
Miskolc Gallery, Municipal Art Museum
11 June – 24 September
4 August – 18 September
FRESH is more than a show, it has been a tradition and point of reference for the last eight years to all who have taken an interest in Hungarian painting’s evolution. It also includes some Romanian new talent this year in the thematic groupings of nostalgia, ethnic strife, subcultures, and pornography.
A Passage to the Past – The Era of Hungarian Silent Film
4 August – 25 September
Project Gallery, Műcsarnok
Within the framework of an EU project called European Film Gateway (since September 2008), Palace of the Arts now exhibits some 1 000 photographs and 1 200 lobby posters with the help of Hungary’s National Film Archive. As part of the exhibition, visitors can enter EFG’s website as well as enjoy some 200 hours of films made by the legendary experimental Béla Balázs Studió in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Visas for Life, 1944-45.
4 August – 8 November
Holocaust Memorial Centre
Proving that even closely-watched officials have choices during hard times, this exhibition pays homage to the Budapest-based foreign diplomats (including Raoul Wallenberg, Angelo Rotta, and Friedrich Born) who cared enough for many victims of Nazi persecution to provide them with false but potentially life-saving ID papers.