HEROES WE LOVE
socialist realism revised
case study: ex-Yugoslavia
UGM | Maribor Art Gallery, Strossmayerjeva 6
Opening: Friday, 20 March 2015, at 19:00
curators: Simona Vidmar in Miško Šuvaković
assistant: Jure Kirbiš
The rather unknown period of socialist realism in Slovenia and in the broader area of former Yugoslavia was a time of generous commissions and unrestrained socialist iconography, a time of heroic enthusiasm and monumental propaganda. It was the last artistic period of uncensored manifestation of power, when the state was its sole consumer and commissioner. Socialist realism was marked as a doctrinal art in the service of the party, an eclectic and academic artistic formation, a conservative, anti-avant-garde stream, and an art of empty visualization and false sentiments. Majestic monument sculptures, heroic murals and gigantic canvases of socialist realism ended, as it is characteristic for political transitions and almost parallel with their commencement, on the dustbin of history. Ridiculed, hidden or forgotten they reside anonymously, in conformity with the acknowledged canon of the history of art.
“Heroes we love” enter a controversial field of socialist heroic art in order to recognize and acknowledge those protagonists who brought the monumental art of the preset political surrounding to its peak. We are interested in the iconography of the socialist realism in its mighty, generous, heroic realizations, its sentiments, repartee, and feeling of drama, large-sized commissions and control over size. We want to understand how far revolutionary romanticism had reached, where it drew from and how it depleted onto itself. Monuments as constructions of time and space simplify and fabricate a particular history. The question here is, whether the monumental socialist art is also capable of creating history − a history of art. Walter Benjamin stated that “there has never been a document of culture, which is not simultaneously one of barbarism” that needs to be understood as “a tool of the ruling classes.” And so are the monuments of socialist realism also witnesses of recent cultures (and barbarisms). It is time to recognize them!
Five selected examples of socialist realism from the region of former Yugoslavia form the initial concept of the exhibition: the Soviet inspired Monument to the Red Army Fighters by Croatian sculptor Antun Augustinčić (1945−47, Batina, CRO); the heroic mural The Fight of Yugoslav Nations for Freedom and Renewal of the Country by painter Slavko Pengov (1947, Villa Bled, SLO); the monumental figurality of the Monument to Resistance and Torment by sculptor Lojze Dolinar (1946−50, Kraljevo, SRB); the double relief of the Tomb of the Liberators of Belgrade by Serbian sculptor Rade Stanković (1954, Belgrade, SRB); and the unrealized Monument to Marx and Engels by Croatian sculptor Vojin Bakić (1950−53). The five examples excellently portray the period they are referring to. They narrow it down to the period 1945−1955, thus, the first post-war years under strong Soviet and agitprop influence respectively (until 1948) and to the time of the mid-1950′s, when heroic realism still prevailed in art. These five examples cover all major narratives of socialist art: resistance, torment, victory, builders, and the cult of personality; and of art history genres: murals, reliefs, figural compositions, and isolated figures. The examples are selected in order to follow the formal development of the visual language of socialist realism : from strict imitation of Soviet examples to fierce realism and deviations in terms of simplification and research of plasticity. A network of models, influences, parallels and deviations revolves around these five examples, so as to exhibit approximately 40 works of art by 20 artists from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Serving as the linking element in researching socialist realism or the broader field of art and ideology, we introduce reflections, enactments, actions, and interventions by contemporary artists of the younger generation, with the objective to move away from monuments of failed revolutions and strive for new artistic utopia and modern memory patterning. Or to quote Deleuze and Guattari: ” … the monument is not something commemorating a past; it is a bloc of presentations that owe their presentation only to themselves …”
Maribor Art Gallery is proud to announce that the coming exhibition is a part of the international project »Heroes We Love. Ideology, Identity and Socialist Art in New Europe«, supported by the European program Creative Europe 2014−2020. In the period 2015−2017, the project will deal with the legacy of socialist art in New Europe and focus on the most important issues, problems and opportunities of this artistic period as well as provide a series of exhibitions, public art interventions, and international conferences and workshops.
“Heroes” bring together nine partners from Central and Southeaster Europe, from Poland to Albania: Maribor Art Gallery (leading partner); BLOK Association (CRO); SCCA Contemporary Art Center Sarajevo (BiH); Tirana Art Lab (Albania); Laznia Center for Contemporary Art, Gdansk (Poland); Museum of Yugoslav History (SRB); University of Primorska (SLO); Cultural Association Center plesa, Maribor (SLO).
collaborators: Meta Gabršek Prosenc (Maribor Art Gallery), Ivana Hanaček (BLOK, Zagreb), Breda Kolar Sluga (Maribor Art Gallery), dr. Vladimir Kulić (Florida Atlantic University), Lana Lavrenčić, dr. Lidija Merenik (University of Belgrade), Božodar Pejković (Antun Augustinčić Gallery), Tihana Pupovac, dr. Milanka Todić, (University of Belgrade), Davorin Vujčić, MSci (Antun Augustinčić Gallery)
artists: Antun Augustinčić (CRO), Vojin Bakić (CRO), Riko Debenjak (SLO), Lojze Dolinar (SLO), Boža Ilić (SRB), Boris Kalin (SLO), Zdenko Kalin (SLO), Frano Kršinić (CRO), Slavko Pengov (SLO), Radeta Stanković (SRB), Sreten Stojanović (SRB)
contemporary artists: Jasmina Cibic, Igor Grubić, Luiza Margan
designer: Ajdin Bašić