Highlight of the Month #5
Péter Türk: Experiment with Open(-Ended) and Closed(-Ended) Questions (18.9 x 24.5 x 6.7 cm, 1972)
Art+Text Budapest’s Highlight of the Month #5 is different from the previously displayed pieces. It is a box-work, which is not an unfamiliar form in art history and not unknown for the audience of contemporary art. However, as opposed to Fluxus box works, the one displayed in the Gallery is different. While Fluxus boxes usually contain things – letters, graphics, group of objects, etc. – Türk’s box is empty. It is a concept work to the core, which only contains the concept itself. This also makes it a good fit for the artist’s series from Balatonboglár. (Some of the documentation photographs are also displayed during the event.)
Péter Türk (1943–2015) studied at the School of Fine and Applied Arts in Budapest between 1957- 1961. After high school he pursued printing studies, following which he attended the Teacher’s College in Eger between 1964-68. At the beginning of his career he painted abstract pictures but these were soon replaced by works dealing with the relationship of the parts and the whole. By the 1970s he mostly created geometrical and conceptual works. One of these is the box displayed from the collection of László Beke.
On the top of the box there is a red question mark; on the bottom the following text can be read:
“Experiment with open-ended and closed-ended questions 1972. Aim of the experiment: to examine the consequences of the usually asked questions, concerning the nervous system and aesthetics.”
Above the text there are ten black-and-white photographs of the prepared boxes – among them the one displayed here. However, there is nothing inside the box. It is empty, if one not considers the red question mark from the top, which is repeated inside the box. Though here, in a dark and closed space the question mark gives a very different impression. In a way it gives meaning to the text on the back. While aesthetical viewpoints are highlighted outside the box, the lack of light highlights really different aspects. Similarly, usually asked questions have different aesthetic – i.e. visible – consequences and different – non-visible – effects on the nervous system.
Türk repeated variations of the same gesture by putting a series of question marks in Balatonbolár at the beginning of the 1970s around the chapel, on its tower, in the bottom of the cross, or on the wall of the chapel, in arranged in order but upside down. He tried to call upon the audience to “think outside the box.” The series fit the artist’s oeuvre, in his works he rather dealt with the world and how it functions than with art itself. (EG)
Further research is necessary concerning the box-work. All the other similar boxes should be collected, but what makes it difficult is that it is not clear how many were created by Türk. Concerning semantic aspects, the artist most likely started off from semiotic/linguistic/logical reflections: he examined whether the question marks and other signs (exclamation points, full stops, etc.) can propose meanings on their own or upside down, and if they generate contextual meaning separated from the end of a sentence.
The box nature of the piece – similarly to other contemporary conceptual forms, e.g. book objects, containers, bottles, etc. – raises further, almost philosophical problems, too. We do not know what the box “contains” if it is closed or shut, whether its sign misleads us, and if it is a “secret” what is inside, or if there is nothing in it at all (cf. Duchamp: With Hidden Noise, Air of Paris, Manzoni: Merda d’artista, Beuys: The Silence (Ingmar Bergmann), Sol LeWitt: Secret Piece, Tamás Szentjóby: Chicken Blood Movie, Béla Hap: Box).
It is also characteristic of Türk that he talks about examining the “nervous system.” Actually, he turned towards the psychology of perception in this period, he studied the experiments of the eyes’ movement, uncovering imprints; also, he started producing “mnemograms” based on the idea of photograms. (LB)
Highlight of the Month #4
András Baranyay: Portrait of János Major
(4 colorized photo, 4/5, 1973)
Art+Text Budapest’s Highlight of the Month #4 displays the work of the András Baranyay (1938- 2016). The work is made of a series of photos made at the beginning of the 1970s, and it depicts details of the portrait of contemporary artist János Major. The series was made in five versions, the one displayed in Art+Text, property of László Beke is the fourth version.
András Baranyay was born in 1938 in Budapest. He was the student of Aurél Bernáth at the University of Fine Arts between 1957 and 1965. He already displayed his works in the middle of the 1960s but his personal style became clear by the end of the decade, by the second Iparterv exhibition (1969) where – together with the artists previously shown during present series – he participated. At this exhibition he presented tondo shaped lithography works focusing on details of hands entitled Details of a Hand 1-4 (1969). Examination of the hand and its details has an important place in the oeuvre. By the beginning of the 1970s, the artist moves away from lithography and starts to experience with photography. Hands are replaced with self-portraits in these chemically manipulated, colorized photographs. This – the distorted self-portrait – is another important theme of the oeuvre. As a third important motif, Baranyay starts depicting still lives in the 1980s.
The work displayed in Art+Text Budapest depicts four details of the portrait of János Major, which are hardly recognizable as a face on their own, however in the same time by directing the viewers’ attention to the details, Baranyay makes the series becomes more than an average portrait. Dezső Tandori called these details similar to landscapes, and as an example he states about the forehead that is seems that Baranyay “tries to explain expressions like ‘homloktájt’ [meaning around the forehead, ‘táj’ in Hungarian means ‘landscape’].” The series is the sequels of the hands series, but in this case the artist uses the technique for the face.
Baranyay was a modest, meditating artist, who observed the world – i.e. his surroundings and friends – around him with silent irony. His modesty was accompanied with a kind of hiding, and his irony with the “unpersonification” of his friends. His portrait reminded the viewer to anything but characteristic portraits. He depicted himself blurred, or montage with others – with his father or the muse of Arts and Crafts, Jane Morris. Others were faded in his pictures, or depicted from the back, or displayed with hardly recognizable face details. One of the themes of philosophy and aesthetics, the variations of the relationship of the general, the individual and the typical could be taught through Baranyay’s works, who synthesized realism, pop art, conceptualism and the photography used in fine art in a special way. This latter one is usually called photo based art. The series might be considered to be a special representation of sequence.
Highlight of the month is accompanied by a rarity in October: documentary photographs from 1996, when István Hajdu interviewed János Major. The interview was published only 13 years later (Balkon, 2009: 11, 12).
Highlight of the Month #3
László Méhes: File (1971, 50 x 70 cm)
Art+Text Budapest’s Highlight of the Month #3 displays László Méhes’s File, which was painted as a response to Gyula Pauer’s call in 1971. Pauer’s project was part of László Beke’s 1971 Imagination/Idea project. The pseudo-artist asked 16 Hungarian artists to participate and create the record of their best work (or the one they considered to be the best). He argues in the call that “the file is the only record that proves the existence and the identity of the piece of art credibly.” Méhes only partly did what Pauer had asked the artists to do because instead of creating the file of one of his works he drew the two-dimensional cardboard record itself.
László Méhes (1944-) was the student of Aurél Bernáth, like László Lakner, Ákos Szabó and Tibor Csernus were earlier. „Surnaturalism” – as Géza Pernecky called it – which can be connected to the name of the last one, was practiced by Méhes at the beginning of his career. The artist appeared before the wider public at the end of the 1960s, at the Iparterv exhibitions. At the second exhibition he displayed his painting Everyday, which was one of the first hyperrealist paintings in Hungarian art. This was followed by the Lukewarm Water series, which he started in Hungary but continued to paint even in France. According to the artist this series made his name known because – even if it seems to be localized at first – the paintings’ layered nature makes them easy to understand even to audiences with different cultural backgrounds. Méhes settled down in France at the end of the 1970s – after several shorter stays in Paris.
It was in 1999 when he had an extensive exhibition in Hungary. Paintings displayed at that exhibition showed that the artist experimented with different kinds of realisms; sometimes he almost entirely moved away from reality. He used numerous techniques, for example he used airbrush to achieve 3D-like surface; and drawings, comics, installations out of paint remnants, and special animation techniques can be detected in his oeuvre.
Highlight of the Month #2
Gyula Pauer: Pseudo, 1970/71 (paper, cardboard, ink, 42 x 30,6 x 2,3 cm)
Gyula Pauer (1941-2012) dedicated his oeuvre to “Pseudo-art” created by him in 1970. He started his career with figurative sculptures but after a short period he turned to conceptual and minimal art, within the frame of which he created his pseudo-pieces. Beside his sculptural works he created stage designs and film sets, which were by definition pseudo places and because f this quality they fitted perfectly into his artistic concept. He was the leading stage designer of the Theatre of Kaposvár until the end of his life.
In the 1970s the technique of the work of art became also its medium, by which the piece talks about itself on a meta-level: it shows how it was made. Pauer’s pseudo was not his own invention but it was his own genius recognition that he recontextualized the already existing techniques. He created a kind of fake-photographic or fake-photogram-like trompe-l’oeil with air-brush. The relief-like surfaces become convex or concave depending on the preconception of the viewer about the direction of the light. It is hard to decide if a pseudo-piece is figurative or nonfigurative – in the case of the present work of art it is a circle on a folded surface or a depiction of a ring covered by a paper folded into four.
From the beginning of the 1970s Pauer only created pieces that fitted the concept of pseudo. These, although they seem to be three-dimensional, are flat surfaces – if one touched them one would find that they are totally smooth. This is true both in the cases of the hemispheres and the cubes, which seem to differ but have the same shapes. Later he broadened the sense of pseudo: he used it to high literature, to lyrical poetry and to memorial sculpture and finally he arrived to social criticism in the sense that he could represent any kind of deceitfulness, falsities and manipulations. At the end of his life he returned to pseudo-painting.
In the First Pseudo Manifest (1970), which was soon followed by the second one, Pauer talks about op art and minimal art as his sources – but actually it is Pauer, the conceptual artist who speaks:
“The PSEUDO sculpture does not seem to be what its genuine form actually is. The PSEUDO sculpture is not about the medium of sculpture itself, but rather the circumstances of the medium of sculpture.”
The piece displayed at Art+Text Budapest is an early pseudo-piece, mounted on a photo paper box and is one of Pauer’s most well-known works, even internationally. It was reproduced in numerous art publications, and it was also highlighted on front cover. Shortly before his death, the artist created a “pseudo-replica “of the piece.
Highlight of the Month #1
László Lakner: Spectators' School
Art+Text Budapest launches its series “Highlight of the Month” with a conceptual piece of László Lakner from the beginning of the 1970s, from the collection of László Beke.
Participants: László BEKE, István HAJDU
“What is awe-inspiring in Lakner’s oeuvre is the consciousness he initiates new artistic forms with, and the way he adapts already existing trends to his own art: hyperrealism, statue-works, book-objects, philosophical concept, concrete poetry, experimental film and photo."
– László Beke
The Spectators’ School (after Magritte) is the documentation of the 1971 presentation of Lakner, held in the University of Economics of Budapest. Five of György Gadányi’s photos are mounted onto four
A4 pieces of paper. The series can be considered to be one conceptual piece, made in 1/1. Some of the photos are posteriorly manipulated (IL EXISTE and LA BRUME signs are later additions to the photos), and there are texts written under the photos, in which Lakner approaches the problem of text and image with the means of conceptual art.
The Imagination/Idea (1971) is a more widely-known project, also considered to mark the beginning of the Hungarian conceptual art; it is published both in Hungarian and in English. Lakner’s contribution to the project is the covering letter and 4+1 pieces, since the Material-poem was thought to be lost, so László Beke asked Lakner to make a replica in 2008; luckily the original work from 1971 was found later, too. The original and the replica are displayed together for the first time in Art+Text Budapest, accompanied by Lakner’s other contributions (Roman-Stele; TUKTUK; Imagination).
Series' editor: Eszter Greskovics