Retrospect Károly Kelemen: Repainted IconsErnst Museum 3 May – 1 JulyCurator: Gábor Gulyás, Director, Palace of the Arts I happened to come upon this magnificent show rather belatedly: days before it was to be dismantled. I can’t let it pass without mention, though. So, courtesy of the curators, here is a reminder of what it felt like to roam in those memorable spaces specially divided up for Kelemen’s idiosyncratic exhibition. It was over three decades ago that the jury of the Musée du Châ¬teau Festival in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, chaired by art histo¬rian Pierre Restany, awarded the “PALETTE D’OR” prize to a young Hungarian artist, Károly Kelemen. Already well-known in the Hungarian scene for his photographic works and “eraser paintings,” Kelemen distinguished himself in the international field not as a follower of one of the in-vogue trends, but as some¬one who reflected on the key tendencies of modern visual art in an autonomous and original manner. Károly Kelemen has been a vital figure of contemporary Hungarian art, whose works can be seen in prestigious public collections. It is invariably cultural memory, particularly the art historical canon that serves as a starting point for his works. Kelemen makes well-known chapters of art his¬tory his own subjects, constantly hijacking the course book version of the stories as he critically appropriates and recreates the sty¬listic elements and compositional topoi of this or that artist. Of¬fering delightful intellectual adventures for those who are ready to engage in reflection, his artificial world is always temporary, never finalized: Kelemen’s works are sensitive manifestations of a constantly changing past, an ungraspable present, and an un¬predictable future. They are par excellence free works – and this has nothing to do with how the age in which they were created curtailed personal freedoms. His is an oeuvre art history is hard put to classify: though Kelemen’s work has undeniable affinities with the ambitions of appropriation art, the Hungarian artist does not simply remodel or evoke the emblematic works of modern art, as, say, the American masters of Pop Art do, but makes them completely his own.
Károly Kelemen only creates unusual portraits. In many cases, he does not even repre¬sent the face, insisting on the eyes only. However, when the face does appear, he deliber¬ately gets the well-known features “wrong,” diverts and dissects them, or stiffens them into masks – mostly through digital alteration. He does not simply redraw or re-colour the photos, but deliberately corrupts their quality in order to produce grainy surfaces that are able to bear the personal signature of the artist – understood as a counter-technology vehicle – even in the age of mechanical reproduction. Kelemen magnifies the resulting digital images, prints them on canvas, and also paints on them. Thus, the portraits may evoke a person, and together with that a certain historical time and its familiar style, but eventually they rather showcase the interpreter through the process of reworking – demonstrating the classic dictum of Cosimo de Medici namely that every painter only paints himself.
ReviewGábor Pataki: Light, Colour, MotionDezső Laczkó Museum, Veszprém23 June – 11 November This group exhibition of pioneering Hungarian constructivist and lumino-kinetic artists is a tribute not just to the Avant-Garde of the 1920s, but also to the courageous flock of younger artists who undertook to follow and/or revive it in more recent times. Lying at the base of the constructivist creed was the notion that „the mechanics and motions of modern machinery can turn into art and rise into the sphere of free intellectual architecture before they return to the plane of mere technology” (Ernő Kállai). There was an inverse ratio between the backwardness of Hungarian society, and the forward-looking mindset of its experimenting artists most of whom were, unfortunately, soon lost to Hungary itself because they were forced to emigrate: Moholy-Nagy, György Kepes, Nicholas Schöffer, Victor Vasarely, Etienne Beöthy, Andor Weininger, Marcel Breuer, Lajos Ébneth, Gyula Kosice, Lajos Kassák and the others, oh, what a roll to call!Later Hungarian constructivist and lumino-kinetic artists of the 1960s and 1970s were facing much the same retraints albeit in an entirely different political situation. They were cut off from contemporary West-European experiments both physically and intellectually but they could draw on the traces their fellow-Hungarian predecessors had left or transmitted personally like e.g. Kassák did. Some of their progressive-minded tutors at the Arts Academy like György Z. Gács could also fertilise their endeavours (see e.g. the glass sculptures of Zoltán Bohus, or the plexi-structures of László Paizs), but we can also point to the minimalist, mostly metal surfaces of János Fajó or Tibor Dohnál which presented special light effects and novel light-shade relations. Those virtual mobile structures were reminiscences of Moholy-Nagy’s famed Great Light-Space Modulator of the mid-1920s. Moholy-Nagy is expressly revoked by Lajos Dargay’s work at the exhibition. István Haraszty’s work brings into interference the perfection of his working material as opposed to his dishevelled playfulness. The illusions awakened (and shattered) by the „velvet dictatorship” of late 20th century Hungary logically produced the pseudo-works of Gyula Pauer offering a special mix of the existence and simultaneous non-existence of his works of art.Other works at the exhibition concentrate upon the time factor, i.e. continuous processes. The famed photographic sequences of László Haris dissect spectacles and time-zones by transforming them into fantastic grid structures, while Antal Nemcsics who had spent decades experimenting, presents his well-disciplined, albeit mobile, interchangeable series of colour shades that come to life at unexpected intervals. Artist-engineer Ferenc Pócsy as well as England-based Bálint Bolygó can turn illusions into tangible (?) reality by combining mobiles with smart mirrors, while Attila Csáji uses laser light and holography to produce an internationally novel calligraphy of constantly evolving light phenomena. Another protagonist of light installations is András Mengyán whose multi-sensory constructions reveal many traps and novel territories of the way we habitually use space. Some other members active in Kepes Society, a grouping dedicated to light art following the footsteps of György Kepes, such as e.g. Tamás Waliczky or Attila Csörgő are absent this time around but we have to realise that the walls of the museum are finite – in stark contrast to the art contained within them, a kind of art whose possibilities are truly infinite. PreviewThe Hero, the Heroine and the AuthorLudwig Museum, Budapest6 July – 21 OctoberThis new display of the Ludwig Museum`s collection derives from the dual role of the Artist, i.e. the phenomena that artists are often both the creators and the main characters of their own works. As different roles result in different aspects, the Artist can either be a creator with magical powers, a suffering human being, a socially accepted man or woman or a designer who approaches the society with a critical or a rather ironical eye. They present their topic from a subjective viewpoint, a distant perspective, or they even offer a complete social vision. Along these artistic positions and strategies the exhibition showcases a selection of both the emblematic and the lesser-known art pieces of the Ludwig Museum`s collection.