Posts Tagged ‘Hungarian art

01
Sep
18

Exhibition: ‘Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art’ at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 9th September 2018

Curator: Márton Orosz

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Victor Vasarely. 'Feny' 1973

 

Victor Vasarely
Feny
1973
Acrylic on canvas
180 x 180 cm
Colección Carmen ThyssenBornemisza
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018
(from the Vega Structures section of the exhibition)

 

 

Optic geomancer

No comment is really necessary. You just have to look at the spirit and inventiveness of the art. A pioneer of light and colour, a genius of plastic grid and form, is at play here!

The installation photographs show just how optically magnetic these works are. How they are holistic, singular works which then play magnificently off each other when placed in close proximity. Like the fugues of J.S. Bach these optical illusions create dazzlingly beautiful, intricate and powerful works, an earthly divination of a ‘planetary folklore’.

As my good friend Elizabeth Gertsakis said of the work of Robert Hunter, “he had the mind of abstract divination for a music of the spheres, of any geometry.”

Visit the VR Microsite for a Virtual Reality walk through of the exhibition.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

From 7 June to 9 September 2018, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza will be presenting a monographic exhibition devoted to Victor Vasarely (Pécs, 1906 – Paris, 1997), the founding father of Op Art. Comprising works from the Vasarely Museum in Budapest, the Victor Vasarely Museum in Pécs, the Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en- Provence and prominent loans from private collections, the exhibition will aim to offer an overall vision of the life and work of this Hungarian painter whose best output was created in France. The exhibition includes works from all the principal phases of Vasarely’s career in order to present a chronological survey of his artistic evolution. Visitors will thus be able to appreciate the key role played by the artist in the development of geometrical post-war abstraction and to learn about the experiments based on his artistic principles and theoretical reflections which he undertook with the aim of bringing art and society closer together.

Victor Vasarely is a towering figure in the history of abstract geometric art. The results of his experiments with spatially ambiguous, optically dynamic structures and their effects on visual perception burst into public consciousness in the mid-1960s under the name of Op Art, launching a short-lived yet extraordinarily popular wave of fashion.

The exhibition is organised in eight chronological sections and an introductory space devoted to Vega Structures, one of the best-known and most emblematic series produced by Vasarely at the height of his career named after the brightest star in the northern hemisphere’s summer night sky.

 

 

1. Vega Structures

Inspired by contemporary news reports about mysterious signals received from distant galaxies, Vasarely named many of his works after stars and constellations. The Vega pictures rely on convex-concave distortions of a grid-like network, a sophisticated combination of the cube and the sphere, symbolically referring to the two-way motion of the light that emanates from pulsating stars, and to the functioning of condensing galaxies and the expanding universe. The common denominator in these works is Vasarely’s realisation that two dimensions can be expanded into three simply by deforming the basic grid, and that, depending on the degree of enlargement or reduction, the elements in the deformed grid can be transformed into rhombuses or ellipses.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Victor Vasarely. 'Nora-Dell' 1974-1979

 

Victor Vasarely
Nora-Dell
1974-1979
Silkscreen on paper
87 x 78 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Manipur–negativo' (Negative Manipur) 1971

 

Victor Vasarely
Manipur–negativo (Negative Manipur)
1971
Acrylic on canvas
156 x 130 cm
Colección privada. Cortesía
Fondation Vasarely
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

2. Graphic Period

Blessed with exceptional drawing ability, Vasarely studied the basics of graphic design at Műhely (Workshop) from 1929 to 1930. The private school in Budapest was run by Sándor Bortnyik, a painter and graphic designer who had connections with the Bauhaus in Weimar. Through Bortnyik, Vasarely began to take an interest in the formal problems of the kind of art in which composition is based on geometric principles, and as such he adopted Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich and László Moholy-Nagy as his spiritual masters. In the first period of the artist’s career, which lasted until 1939, the imagery had not yet broken away from the primary visual world, that is, it was not entirely abstract, but the paradoxical optical effects produced by his networks of lines and crosses already bore hints of the illusionistic spatiality to come.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing the works Man in motion. Study of Motion (The Man) 1943 (left) and Material Study-Wood 1939 (right)

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Man in motion. Study of Motion (The Man)' 1943

 

Victor Vasarely
Hombre en movimiento – Estudio del movimiento (El hombre)
Man in motion. Study of Motion (The Man)
1943
Tempera on plywood
117 x 132 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

3. Pre-Kinetic Studies and Naissances

In 1951, the Galerie Denise René in Paris held an exhibition titled Formes et couleurs murales (Mural Forms and Colours). It was at this time that the Hungarian-French artist first considered representing the spatial problems of his pictures on a more monumental scale. At this exhibition, Vasarely used photographic methods to blow up his earlier pen-and-ink drawings, which he then arranged in series covering entire walls. These compositions were later rechristened Naissances (Births). The new name came about when the artist swept the photographic negatives of the drawings over one another, and disquieting, randomly arranged patterns emerged. In is Oeuvres profondes cinétiques (deep kinetic works), first exhibited in 1955, which Vasarely created following the same method of image-making, structuring them out of superimposed sheets of glass, acrylic or transparent foil, the sense of spatiality was combined with actual three-dimensional depth. Exploiting the physical laws of refraction and reflection, he produced spatial collages in a constant state of flux generated by the interference of two abstract patterns projected over each other, which were brought alive as the viewer changed position.

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Cébras - Estudio precinético' (Zebras. Prekinetic Study) 1939

 

Victor Vasarely
Cébras – Estudio precinético (Zebras. Prekinetic Study)
1939
Tempera, pencil, colour and white chalk on paper
62 x 57 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Zebra' 1938-1960

 

Victor Vasarely
Zebra
1938-1960
Wooden wool tapestry
150 x 214 cm
Victor Vasarely Múzeum, Pécs
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Sophia-III' 1952

 

Victor Vasarely
Sophia-III
1952
Oil on canvas
132 x 200 cm
Victor Vasarely Múzeum, Pécs
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. ‘Naissances’ 1954-1960

 

Victor Vasarely
Naissances (del album “Hommage à J.S Bach”, suplemento 3)
Naissances (From the album Hommage à J.S. Bach, Supplement No.3)
1954-1960
Multiple. Silkscreen on glass
56 x 49.5 x 7.5 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

4. Belle-Isle / Crystal / Denfert

In 1947, while spending the summer on Belle Île, an island off the coast of Brittany, he discovered the internal geometry of nature. He took irregularly shaped glass tiles and pebbles polished by the ocean waves and stylised their abstract forms into ellipses. In 1948, he produced delicate pen-and-ink drawings that conjured up the strange meandering patterns of the hairline cracks that pervaded the ceramic tiles covering the Paris metro station named Denfert-Rochereau. From his sketches, which reveal a vivid imagination, he created evocative paintings composed with well unified colours. Those same years also saw the beginning of his Crystal period, which was inspired by the strict geometric structure of the stone houses in Gordes, a medieval town built on a cliff in the South of France. Vasarely strove to transpose reality into the two-dimensional plane with the help of the axonometric approach.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, the works Lan 2, 1953; Amir (Rima) 1953; and Vessant, 1952

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Vessant' (Versant) 1952

 

Victor Vasarely
Vessant (Versant)
1952
Oil on plywood
150 x 190 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Amir (Rima)' 1953

 

Victor Vasarely
Amir (Rima)
1953
Oil on plywood
140 x 180 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

5. Black and White Period (Kineticism)

Inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist composition, Black and White (1915), which embodies the harmony of spirituality and is widely interpreted as the ‘end point’ of painting, Vasarely conceived of the picture titled Homage to Malevich. Its basic component, a square rotated about its axis so that it appears as a rhombus, became the starting point of his ‘kinetic’ works.

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Tlinko-F' 1956-1962

 

Victor Vasarely
Tlinko-F
1956-1962
Oil on canvas
145 x 145 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Gixeh' 1955-1962

 

Victor Vasarely
Gixeh
1955-1962
Oil on canvas
170 x 160 cm
Museo de Bellas Artes, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, the works Doupla, 1970-1975; Kotzka, 1973-1976 and Gixeh, 1955-1962

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, the works Nethe, 1964; Noorum, 1960-1977 and Tlinko-F, 1956-1962

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, the works Afa III, 1957-1973 Nethe, 1964; Noorum,

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Noorum' 1960-1977

 

Victor Vasarely
Noorum
1960-1977
Acrylic on canvas
112 x 84 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, the works Taymir II, 1956 and Afa III, 1957-1973

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Taymir II' 1956

 

Victor Vasarely
Taymir II
1956
Acrylic on canvas
135 x 120 cm
Victor Vasarely Múzeum, Pécs
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

6. Universal systems built from a plastic alphabet

Vasarely presented the results of his analytical research into the Plastic Unit at an exhibition held in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1963. His formula for this was built on the structural interplay of form and colour. He regarded colour-forms as the cells or molecules out of which the universe was made. ‘The form-color unit […] is to plasticity what the particle-wave is to nature’, he declared. In pictures based on the mutual association between forms and colours, he claimed to perceive a ‘grammar’ of visual language, with which a set of basic forms making up a composition could be arranged into a system similar to musical notation.

The plastic alphabet

The plastic alphabet is a kind of programmed language with an infinite number of form and colour variations. The basic unit of the alphabet is a coloured square containing smaller basic shapes like squares, triangles, circles and rectangles. Vasarely used these patterns and primary colours plus endless colour permutations as the duplicating and changing elements in his works. In each unit there was a number which determined its colour, tone, form and place in the whole.

Vasarely saw that his plastic alphabet, by enabling serial production, could open the way to countless applications. It could be used as the basis for planning houses and whole environments for cities: it offered countless permutations of form and colour, and the size of the basic unit could be changed or enlarged as required.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from centre to right, the works Villog, 1979; Zila, 1981 and Pavo II, 1979

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Pavo II' 1979

 

Victor Vasarely
Pavo II
1979
Acrylic on plywood
60 x 60 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left to right, the works Vonal-Fegn, 1968-1971; Helios, 1964 (multiple) and Villog, 1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, Doupla, 1970-1975; Kotzka, 1973-1976 and Vonal-Fegn, 1968-1971

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left, Bi-Octans, 1979; Doupla, 1970-1975; Kotzka, 1973-1976; Vonal-Fegn, 1968-1971 and Helios, 1964 (multiple)

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Vonal-Fegn' 1968-1971

 

Victor Vasarely
Vonal-Fegn
1968-1971
Tapestry, cotton and wool
252 x 255 cm
Victor Vasarely Múzeum, Pécs
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Kotzka' 1973-1976

 

Victor Vasarely
Kotzka
1973-1976
Acrylic on canvas
130 x 130 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Doupla' 1970-1975

 

Victor Vasarely
Doupla
1970-1975
Acrylic on canvas
210 x 114 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left Dirac, 1978 and Bi-Octans, 1979

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Bi-Octans' 1979

 

Victor Vasarely
Bi-Octans
1979
Acrylic on canvas
180 x 180 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

7. Algorithms and Permutations

Vasarely first discussed the necessity for his works to be duplicated and disseminated widely in 1953. Then, in his Yellow Manifesto of 1955 he outlined his ideas on the possibilities of re-creation, multiplication and expansion. He believed that a basic set of corpuscular elements, by virtue of their multiplicability and permutability, could be transformed using a pre-selected algorithm into a virtually infinite number of different compositions. The programmations that would record the picture-composition process onto graph paper assumed that the colours, shades and forms making up each image could be notated numerically, and even fed into an electronic brain to be retrieved at any time. Although Vasarely himself had never worked with computers, his principles led logically to the possibility of creating images with such technology. As conceived by the artist, in future, employing codes of colour and form that were objectively defined using alphanumerical data, his compositions could be recreated at anytime, anywhere in the world, by anybody at all.

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Stri-Per' 1973-1974

 

Victor Vasarely
Stri-Per
1973-1974
Acrylic on canvas
76 x 76 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left Kekub, 1976-1978; Black Orion, 1970; Marsan-2, 1964-1974 and Eroed-Pre, 1978

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Eroed-Pre' 1978

 

Victor Vasarely
Eroed-Pre
1978
Acrylic on cardboard
52 x 52 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Marsan-2' 1964-1974

 

Victor Vasarely
Marsan-2
1964-1974
Acrylic on canvas
202 x 253 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Orion noir' 1970

 

Victor Vasarely
Orion noir (de la serie “Kanta”)
Black Orion (From the “Kanta” series)
1970
Polystyrene
100 x 105 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Zint-MC' 1960-1976

 

Victor Vasarely
Zint-MC
1960-1976
Acrylic on canvas
179 x 153 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left Yllus, 1978; V.P. 102, 1979; Trybox, 1979 and Toro, 1973-1974

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Yllus' 1978

 

Victor Vasarely
Yllus
1978
Acrylic on canvas
87 x 87 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Trybox' 1979

 

Victor Vasarely
Trybox
1979
Acrylic on canvas
192 x 218 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Toro' 1973-1974

 

Victor Vasarely
Toro (Bull)
1973-1974
Acrylic on canvas
175 x 175 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Stri-Oet' 1979

 

Victor Vasarely
Stri-Oet
Acrylic on canvas
211 x 191 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid showing from left Stri-Oet, 1979; Cheiyt-Stri-F, 1975; Peer-Rouge, 1977; Woo, 1972-1975; Kekub, 1976-1978 and Black Orion, 1970

 

 

8. Planetary Folklore

In the early 1960s, Vasarely put forward a proposal for the use of a universal visual language formulated in accordance with the principle of the Plastic Unit, which he called ‘planetary folklore’. He believed that regularly arranged and numbered, homogeneous colours and constant forms, of the kind that could be manufactured industrially, could have meaning attached to them. His intention was for the opportunity of aesthetic pleasure to become part of the everyday environment. As Vasarely argued, artworks not only belonged in museums and galleries, but were also needed in every single segment of urban life. His concept, which built on the ideas of Le Corbusier and Fernand Léger, and which proclaimed a synthesis of the different fields of the arts, was for the building blocks of the cities of the future to consist of mass-produced, monumental ‘plastic’ works that could be extended to any desired size, which would provide limitless possibilities of variation. The first of his architectural integrations was implemented in Venezuela in 1954, on the campus of the Central University of Caracas; this was followed by monumental ‘plastic’ installations on buildings in Bonn, Essen, Paris and Grenoble.

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Ferde' 1966-1974

 

Victor Vasarely
Ferde
1966-1974
Collage on cardboard
78 x 77 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Victor Vasarely. The Birth of Op Art' at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

Installation view of (l-r):

Victor Vasarely
Estudio BR 14, serie “Pignons” Muros ciegos, Integraciones monumentales, Viviendas colectivas, Edificios grandes
Study BR 14. ‘Pignons’ Series: Blind Walls, Monumental Interations, Collective Dwellings, Large Buildings
1970
Mixed: Collage on board
75.8 x 81.8 cm
Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en- Provence
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

Victor Vasarely
Estudio BR 3, serie “Pignons” Muros ciegos, Integraciones monumentales, Viviendas colectivas, Edificios grandes
Study BR 3. ‘Pignons’ Series: Blind Walls, Monumental Interations, Collective Dwellings, Large Buildings
1970
Mixed: Collage on board
75.8 x 81.8 cm
Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en- Provence
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

9. Multiples

An important part of Vasarely’s art philosophy was his conscious refusal to discriminate between an individual work and its duplicate. He was convinced that an artwork came alive again when multiplied, and that the multiple was the most democratic form of art. His aim was to topple the elitist concept of owning unique and unrepeatable works by replacing it with the notion of making pictures for mass distribution. The artist experimented with the most diverse assortment of materials and techniques, from the most modern to the most ancient. Weaving workshops in Aubusson, following traditions dating back centuries, produced tapestries from his designs. Vasarely was also especially fond of the serigraph. His individually signed and numbered screen prints were commercially available on the art market, as were the multiple objects composed of individually handcoloured or industrially reproduced sheets mounted on wooden or metal backing materials.

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Kroa-MC' 1969

 

Victor Vasarely
Kroa-MC
1969
44 x 44 x 50 cm
Multiple. Metal, silk screen on metal
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Tridim- HH' 1972

 

Victor Vasarely
Tridim- HH
1972
Multiple. Acrylic on board
30 x 24 x 6 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Beryl-Positive' 1967

 

Victor Vasarely
Beryl-Positive
1967
Multiple, acrylic on plywood
36 x 36 x 4.5 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Ajedrez' (Chess Set) 1980

 

Victor Vasarely
Ajedrez (Chess Set)
1980
Plexiglass on acrylic board
70 x 70 x 15 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018

 

 

Vasarely and the ‘Op Art’ phenomenon

Márton Orosz

 

‘…here comes Op Art!’

Victor Vasarely, 18 April 1964

 

 

When the major exhibition titled The Responsive Eye opened at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1965, it made Optical Art famous almost overnight. The limelight was stolen by two Europeans: Josef Albers, who continued the legacy of the Bauhaus in his art, and Victor Vasarely. Both men were represented at the show with six works each. But whereas Albers, oft neglected by the critics, was turned into the black sheep of the movement by contemporary art history writing, for Vasarely, who was just reaching the peak of his career, the show served as a launch pad to fame.(…)

The scientific definition of Op Art came soon afterwards, with the first attempt made in 1967 by the German art historian, Max Imdahl. Imdahl interpreted the art of Victor Vasarely as deriving from the Orphism of Robert Delaunay, which ascribed meaning to colour, the Neo-Plasticism of Piet Mondrian, which rested on the symmetry of two-dimensional structures, and the Mechano-Faktura of Henryk Berlewi, which borrowed its aesthetic principles from the schematism of mechanical production. Vasarely, meanwhile, preferred to call his own invention Kineticism, and he was fully justified in doing so, because if we accept the contents of his art philosophical writings, published in chronological order under the title of Notes brutes, then the artist was the first person to consistently use this name for the movement. He coined the phrase ‘kinetic art’ in 1953, basing the term on the description of the movement of gases written by Nicolas Sadi Carnot, the nineteenth-century French engineer who developed thermodynamics. In the light of Vasarely’s consistency of thought, his wide-ranging knowledge and his enthusiasm for science, it would have been the logical outcome of his principles to classify his works under a style or movement of his own construction. Kineticism, however, was regarded by Vasarely as something more than a simple art movement. He not only referred to it in a formal sense, but also accorded it ethical, economic, social and philosophical functions. He believed it to be of greater significance than Cubism, and he was convinced the Kineticism offered, for the first time since the Renaissance, a synthesis of ‘the two creative expressions of man: the arts and the sciences’. The simultaneous representation of movement, space and time had already found expression in Constructivist art in the 1920s, but Vasarely’s Op Art was fundamentally different, in that it aimed to generate a spatial effect through the use of a two-dimensional surface by creating the illusion of motion in macro-time, whereby the image formed on the retina underwent virtual manipulation. Consequently, the name Op Art can be given to any artwork ‘that shifts during the spectator’s act of perception’. (…).

 

‘Optical’ paintings

(…) Vibrant surfaces created from patterns of geometric figures arranged according to a particular algorithm can be found among the mosaics of Antiquity. The first stage in the history of the autonomisation of retina-based art, however, came at the end of the nineteenth century with Pointillist painting, which relied on the scientific theory of the optical combination of colours, and with the so-called Divisionists, who strove to separate optical effects using an analytical method. Georges Seurat’s ‘optical painting’, however, remained firmly attached to the real spectacle. Primary shapes became a means of generating illusions with the arrival of non-objective, abstract art styles, especially Cubism. Optical games derived from periodic series of geometric elements were incorporated into the repertoire of applied photography in the second half of the 1920s. During his studies in Budapest, Vasarely may have come across such depictions, even in the printed press, such as the photograph of the Hollywood actress, Alice White, in a room of mirrors decorated with abstract patterns.

Yet optical illusion was not enough to bring about Op Art, which also needed the dynamism of kinetics. It became inseparable from the concept of the fourth dimension of motion-time, which tipped the static work out of its fixed position by involving the viewer and turning the eye into the active organ of sight. In this sense, Vasarely’s optical kineticism also posed the question of the dematerialisation of the artwork, for in his works, the actual spectacle is not present on the canvas at rest in front of us, but comes about through interacting with the work and is generated on the retina. Vasarely was never concerned with the type of mechanical movement that brought about the works of Jean Tinguely or Marcel Duchamp. The Hungarian artist’s planar kineticism was in this respect far more closely connected to visual research than to the approach of works that emphasise their industrial nature. (…)

 

Op Art as Algorithm

(…) When it came to the aesthetic and market values of artworks that existed in multiple copies, opinion was split even among the artists participating in the exhibition. In terms of form, the experiments into perception conducted by Vasarely and Bridget Riley, for example, had much in common, and yet their views on the democratisation and interdisciplinarity of art differed sharply. Unlike Riley, who always insisted on her paintings being one of a kind, Vasarely’s programme of art targeted a re-evaluation of the aesthetic of reproduced, duplicated objects. It was in this regard that Vasarely came closest to Pop Art and to its iconic exponent, Andy Warhol. In spite of this, Vasarely was not in thrall to Pop Art. He spoke appreciatively of its achievements, but he considered it to be a movement outside the realm of painting, a parody or caricature of its own times. Pop Art, meanwhile, suffered greatly from the fact that Op Art ultimately proved far more popular. ‘I am “pop” in the sense that I would like to be popular’, Vasarely wittily replied when one journalist pressed him on his personal position in Op Art, shortly after it had found fame as a fashion phenomenon. A few years later, at a reception held in the Galerie Spiegel in Cologne in September 1971, where a work by Vasarely hung on the wall beside Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nude, an iconic piece from the rival movement, the Hungarian-born artist was asked his opinion of Pop Art. He could not refrain from commenting that the essence of Pop was exaggeration. He then cast a malicious glance at Wesselmann’s painting before declaring, ‘Art is not about painting gigantic pictures for billionaires’. When it was subsequently suggested that his democratic views were not compatible with the high prices commanded by his works, he replied, ‘The critics compare me to hippies who loathe money but who want to get around by hitchhiking. And at such times it is of no concern to them that they are travelling with the help of General Motors, Shell and other billionaire companies’.

There was, however, a whole group of Pop-Art fans who would never have dreamed of denigrating Kineticism. Warhol, for instance, began to follow Vasarely’s career after seeing his works at the opening of The Responsive Eye. He was present at the artist’s exhibition held in 1965 in the Pace Gallery in New York, and his admiration endured until 1984, when he attended Vasarely’s birthday party, arranged by Yoko Ono. It was probably on this occasion that Warhol was given a handkerchief signed by Vasarely, decorated with a pre-kinetic zebra composition, which the American artist preserved among his relics up until his death. We would find few artists in the twentieth century who achieved more in rethinking the aesthetic of the multiplied artwork than Vasarely and Warhol, so there is a striking contradiction in the fact that the only work by Vasarely in Warhol’s collection was a monochromatic oil painting, titled Onix (1966)107, which actually represented the counterpoint to the paradigm expressing the latent artistic opportunities in duplication (including the entire spectrum of vibrant and saturated colours). (…)

Extract from the catalogue

 

Victor Vasarely. 'Transparence-XIII' 1952

 

Victor Vasarely
Transparence-XIII
1952
Kinetic object, silkscreen on plastic foils mounted on plywood
40 x 33 cm
Vasarely Múzeum, Budapest
© Victor Vasarely, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018
(from the Belle-Isle / Crystal / Denfert section of the exhibition)

 

 

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04
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘André Kertész’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 28th September 2010 – 6th February 2011

 

Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

André Kertész. 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom' 1917

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom
1917, printed in the 1980s
Gelatin silver print
Bibliothèque Nationale de France

 

André Kertész. 'Tisza Szalka' 1924

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Tisza Szalka
1924
Vintage gelatin silver contact print
Salgo Trust for Education, New York

 

André Kertész. 'Distortion n° 41' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion n° 41
1933
[with André Kertész selportrait]
Gelatin silver print, later print
Collection of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris

 

 

Twenty-five years after his death, André Kertész (1894-1985) is today a world-famous photographer who produced images that will be familiar to everyone, but he has yet to receive full recognition for his personal contribution to the language of photography in the 20th century. His career spanning more than seventy years was chaotic, and his longevity was matched by an unwavering creative acuity that rendered difficult an immediate or retrospective understanding of his work.

This exhibition attempts to provide for the first time a broad and balanced view of Kertéz’s work, presenting new elements and bringing together, for the first time also, a large number of period prints (two thirds of the 300 photographs on show). Both the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue were produced in collaboration with The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation (New York) and the Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (Paris), which holds Kertész’s donation to the ministère de la Culture.

An initial investigation was undertaken during his lifetime as part of preparations for the first retrospective in 1985. The book Ma France (1990) paid tribute to his French donation and celebrated his Parisian periods (1925-1936 and after 1963), and the recent catalogue for the exhibition at the National Gallery of Art (2005), Washington, provided lots of circumstantial information and new analyses. With this retrospective exhibition, which draws extensively on archive documents, we have attempted to present Kertész’s work as a whole in its homogeneity and its continuity, as he himself conceived it, reflecting closely the course of his life.

Adopting a chronological and linear exhibition layout reflecting the various periods of his creative life, punctuated by self-portraits at the entrance to each space, we have created thematic groups in the form of “cells” highlighting the unique aspects of his output: his personal photography (the photographic postcards, the Distortions), his involvement in publishing (the book Paris vu par Kertész, 1934), his recurrent creative experiments (shadows, chimneys), and the more diffuse expression of emotions (solitude). The exhibition sheds light on the importance of previously neglected or unexplored periods (his time as a soldier between 1914 and 1918, the New York period and the Polaroids of his last years). In particular, it highlights the beginnings of photojournalism in Paris in 1928, and the dissemination of his photographs in the press, which had become a professional activity for him. Thus numerous copies of magazines are presented (Vu, Art et Médecine, Paris Magazine), as are the various publications of his photo essay on the Trappist monastery in Soligny, with Kertész’s original shots.

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

 

André Kertész. 'The Eiffel Tower, Paris' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
The Eiffel Tower, Paris
1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
Courtesy Stephen Daiter Gallery

 

André Kertész. 'Place de la Concorde' Paris 1928

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Place de la Concorde
Paris, 1928, printed in the 1970s
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Robert Gurbo

 

 

A Small Journal

André Kertész (1894-1985) is today famous for his extraordinary contribution to the language of photography in the 20th century. This retrospective, which will be traveling to Winterthur, Berlin, and Budapest, marshals a large number of prints and original documents that highlight the exceptional creative acuity of this photographer, from his beginnings in Hungary, his homeland, to Paris, where between 1925 and 1936 he was one of the leading figures in avant-garde photography, to New York, where he lived for nearly fifty years without encountering the success that he expected and deserved. It pays tribute to a photographer whom Cartier-Bresson regarded as one of his masters, and reveals, despite an apparent diversity of periods and situations, themes and styles, the coherence of Kertész’s approach. It emphasises his originality and poetic uniqueness, drawing on new elements to present his oeuvre as the photographer himself conceived it, reflecting as closely as possible the course of his life. It makes full use of archive documents, focusing in particular on an area of his work that is little known (the beginnings of photo-reportage in Paris and the publication of his images in the press and books), and it analyses the circumstances surrounding his late resurgence. By exploring the recurring preoccupations and themes of Kertész’s work, it sheds light on the complex output of this unclassifiable photographer, who defined himself as an “amateur,” and in connection with whom Roland Barthes talked of a photography “that makes us think.”

 

Hungary 1894-1925: from Andor to André

Kertész’s youth left him with an enduring love of the countryside, animals, leisurely walks, and down-to-earth people. His sentimental nature led him to treat photography as “a little notebook, a sketchbook,” whose principal subjects were his friends, his family, his fiancée Elizabeth, and above all his younger brother, Jenö, with whom he carried out most of his early experiments in photography. Called up during the war, he continued to take photographs, capturing for the most part trivial events in the lives of the soldiers, whose situation he shared, for in spite of the context photography remained for him a way of expressing emotions. André Kertész was very independent at this time – his work diverged radically from the prevailing pictorialism of the time – and he was laying the foundations for a unique innovative photographic language. In 1914, he began photographing at night; in 1917, he took an astonishing photo of an underwater swimmer, and captured his brother “as a scherzo” in 1919. The two persons watching the Circus (1920) and The Blind Musician (1921) immediately emerged as modernist images. André Kertész’s photography was distinguished at this time by its freedom and diversity of approach, as well as its reliance on feelings and emotional bonds for inspiration.

 

France, 1925-1936: The Garden of André Kertész

Hard up and speaking only Hungarian, André Kertész lived in Paris amid a circle of fellow Hungarian émigrés. It was in the studio of one of them, Étienne Beöthy, that the dancer Magda Förstner, mimicking one of the artist’s sculptures, instigated the famous photograph Satiric Dancer in 1926. In the same year, when taking photographs at Mondrian’s studio, the photographer emerged as the master of a new type of unorthodox “portrait in absence.” Kertész evokes more than he shows, giving life to the inanimate, and creating a poetic language of allusive signs, both poetic and visual. During the early years of his life in Paris, he printed a large number of his images on photographic paper in postcard format (this inexpensive practice occupied a notable place in his work, because he resorted to it so persistently and with such inventiveness).

The street also provided the photographer with micro-events, fleeting associations and multiple signs that became metaphors. The leading representative, along with Man Ray, of international modernity in Paris, he worked for the press, initiating photo-reportage; he took part in several important exhibitions, including “Film und Foto” in Stuttgart in 1929. Kertész nevertheless insisted on retaining his independence, keeping artistic movements, in particular Surrealism, at arm’s length. Nourished by his emotions, surprises, and personal associations, his work, with its mirrored images, reflections, shadows, and doubles, established him as a leading exponent of avant-garde photography. But he nevertheless avoided conventional doctrines and styles. The Fork (1928), for example, a perfect application of the modernist creed that held sway at the time, reveals another distinguishing feature of Kertész’s work: his interest in shadows cast by objects or people. In The Hands of Paul Arma (1928) and the extraordinary Self-Portrait (1927), these play subtly on the alternation between absence and presence, doubling and disappearance.

André Kertész always sought to take advantage of innovations that would enable him to reconfigure reality through unusual images. He very quickly became interested in the optical distortions produced by waves (The Swimmer, 1917), or by the polished surfaces of such objects as silver balls or by car headlights. In 1930, when the magazine VU commissioned him to take a portrait of its new editor, Carlo Rim, Kertész took him to the funhouse at Luna Park to pose in front of the distorting mirrors. Then, in 1933, at the request of the editor of a girlie magazine, Le Sourire, he produced an extraordinary series of female nudes, known as Distortions. He used two models, who posed with two distorting mirrors that, depending on the vantage point chosen, produced grotesque elongations, monstrous protuberances, or the complete disintegration of the body. Following his move to the United States, Kertész hoped to make use of this technique by adapting it to advertising, but he was met with incomprehension (it was not until 1976 that a book devoted to the Distortions was published in American and French editions).

 

United States, 1936-1962: A Lost Cloud

The offer of a contract from the Keystone agency (which would be broken after one year) prompted Kertész’s to move to New York in October 1936. His reservations about fashion photography, the rejection of his photo essays that “talked too much” according to the editorial board of Life, and the incomprehension that greeted the Distortions series gradually plunged Kertész into depression. The war and the curtailment of the “foreign” photographer’s freedom merely added to his difficulties. In 1947, in order to have a regular income, Kertész was forced to accept a contract from the magazine House & Garden. In 1952, he moved into an apartment overlooking Washington Square, which prompted a change of direction in Kertész’s work. He now watched and witnessed what was taking place on the surrounding terraces and in the square. He used telephoto lenses and zooms to create whimsical series, such as the one featuring chimneys.

André Kertész lived in New York from 1936 to 1985 and he never stopped photographing “in” the city, rather than the city itself. He did not record the life of its neighbourhoods, the picturesque aspects of its various trades, and its often paradoxical architectural environments. For him, New York was a sound box for his thoughts, which the city echoed back to him in the form of photographs. He sought everywhere an antidote to the city’s regularity, in the dilapidated brick walls and the inextricable tangle of shadows, beams, and external staircases, and it is sometimes impossible to recognise specific places in these broken geometries: Kertész’s New York is highly fragmented, but a single photo could reveal the imaginary city.

He remained true to his intuitive, allusive personal style, and used his work to give voice to the sadness that undoubtedly permeated his entire life in New York, rendered most explicitly in The Lost Cloud (1937). Right up until the end of his life, he sought images of solitude, sometimes incorporating pigeons into them. On January 1, 1972, during a trip to Martinique, he caught the fleeting, pensive profile of a man behind a pane of frosted glass: this nebulous vision of a solitary man before the immensity of the sea was the last image in his retrospective collection, Sixty Years of Photography, 1912-1972, providing a very provisional conclusion to his career.

 

Returns and Renewal, 1963-1985

After his retirement in 1961, Kertész developed a new appetite for life and photography. Following a request from the magazine Camera for a portfolio, he made a sort of inventory of his available work. In 1963 he had one-man exhibitions at the Venice Photography Biennale and the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, the latter enabling him to stay in a city that, on an emotional level, he had never left. In addition, he located and took possession of several boxes of negatives that had been entrusted to a friend in 1936, at the time of his departure, which prompted a review of his entire oeuvre and led to new prints, with fresh croppings. These various episodes, which can be seen as part of a general reassessment of the value of photography and its history, had a rejuvenating effect on Kertész (who was seventy at the time). The traveling exhibition “The Concerned Photographer” even presented him as a pioneer of photojournalism.

Kertész continued his never-ending search for images, both in the cities that he visited and from the window of his apartment. His two books J’aime Paris (1974) and Of New York … (1976) express his sense of being torn between two cultures. The death of his wife Elizabeth in 1977, shortly before his one-man show at the Centre Georges Pompidou, led him to develop an interest in Polaroids, which enabled him to adopt a more introspective approach. As always, emotion was the driving force behind his work. Of the fifty-three Polaroids brought together in the small book From My Window, dedicated to Elizabeth, Kertész, always curious about new technology, was in reality capturing the light of his recollections and the distortions of his memory.”

Michel Frizot and Annie-Laure Wanaverbecq, curators of the exhibition

 

André Kertész. 'Satiric Dancer' 1926

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Satiric Dancer
1926, printed in the 1950s
Gelatin silver print
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

André Kertész. 'Melancholic Tulip' New York, 1939

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Melancholic Tulip
New York, 1939, printed c. 1980
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy Bruce Silverstein Gallery

 

André Kertész. 'Lost Cloud, New York' 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Lost Cloud, New York
1937, printed in the 1970s
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy Sarah Morthland Gallery, New York

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
information: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11am – 9pm
Wednesday – Sunday: 11am – 7pm
Closed Monday (including public holidays)

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28
Jan
10

Exhibition: ‘László Moholy-Nagy 
Retrospective’ at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 8th October 2009 – 7th February 2010

 

All images are featured in the exhibition. Many thankx to the Schirn Kunsthalle for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Marcus

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'LIS' 1922

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
LIS
1922
Oil on canvas
131 x 100 cm
Courtesy Kunsthaus Zürich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'K XVII' 1923

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
K XVII
1923
Oil on canvas
95 x 75 cm
Courtesy Kunsthalle Bielefeld
Photo: Axel Struwe, Fotodesign BFF, Bielefeld
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'COMPOSITION A XXI' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
COMPOSITION A XXI
1925
Oil on canvas
96 x 77 cm
Courtesy LWL-Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster
Photo: LWL-Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster/Rudolf Wakonigg
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Bauhaus Balconies' 1926

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Bauhaus Balconies
1926
Silver gelatin photograph
49.5 x 39.3 cm
Courtesy Collection of George Eastman House

 

Exhibition view, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2009 showing at right Bauhaus Balconies (1926) and second right K XVII (1923)
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
© Photograph: Norbert Miguletz
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'A 19' 1927

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
A 19
1927
Oil on canvas
80 x 96 cm
Courtesy Hattula Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2009 showing at centre, A 19 (1927)
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
© Photograph: Norbert Miguletz
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

 

 

The Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) became known in Germany through his seminal work as a teacher at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau (1923-1928). His pioneering theories on art as a testing ground for new forms of expression and their application to all spheres of modern life are still of influence today. Presenting about 170 works – paintings, photographs and photograms, sculptures and films, as well as stage set designs and typographical projects – the retrospective encompasses all phases of his oeuvre. On the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the foundation of the Bauhaus, it offers a survey of the enormous range of Moholy-Nagy’s creative output to the public for the first time since the last major exhibition of his work in Kassel in 1991. Never having been built before 2009, the artist’s spatial design Raum der Gegenwart (Room of Today), which brings together many of his theories, will be realised in the context of the exhibition.

No other teacher at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, nor nearly any other artist of the 1920s in Germany, an epoch rich in utopian designs, developed such a wide range of ideas and activities as László Moholy-Nagy, who was born in Bácsborsód in Southern Hungary in 1895. His oeuvre bears evidence to the fact that he considered painting and film, photography and sculpture, stage set design, drawing, and the photogram to be of equal importance. He continually fell back upon these means of expression, using them alternately, varying them, and taking them up again as parts of a universal concept whose pivot was the alert, curious, and unrestrained experimental mind of the “multimedia” artist himself. Long before people began to talk about “media design” and professional “marketing,” Moholy-Nagy worked in these fields, too – as a guiding intellectual force in terms of new technical, design and educational instruments. “All design areas of life are closely interlinked,” he wrote about 1925 and was, despite his motto insisting on “the unity of art and technology,” no uncritical admirer of the machine age, but rather a humanist who was open-minded about technology. His basic attitude as an artist, which exemplifies the idealistic and utopian thinking of an entire era, may be summed up as aimed at improving the quality of life, avoiding specialisation, and employing science and technology for the enrichment and heightening of human experience.

After having graduated from high school, Moholy-Nagy began to study law in Budapest in 1913, but was drafted in 1915. During the war, he made his first drawings on forces mail cards and began dedicating himself exclusively to art after having been discharged from the army in 1918. Moholy-Nagy moved to Vienna in 1919 and to Berlin the following year, kept in close contact with Kurt Schwitters, Raul Hausmann, Theo van Doesburg, and El Lissitzky, and immersed himself in Merzkunst, De Stijl, and Constructivism. He achieved successes as an artist with his solo presentation in the Berlin gallery “Der Sturm” (1922), for example. In spring 1923, he was offered the post of a Bauhaus master in Weimar by Walter Gropius. Taking responsibility for the preliminary course and the metal workshop, he decisively informed the Constructivist and social reorientation of the Bauhaus. Interlinking art, life, and technology and underscoring the visual and the material aspects in design were key issues of his work and resulted in a modern, technology-oriented language of forms. His didactic approaches as a Bauhaus teacher still present themselves as up-to-date as his work as an artist. For him, education had to be primarily aimed at bringing up people to become artistically political and creative beings: “Every healthy person has a deep capacity for bringing to development the creative energies found in his/her nature … and can give form to his/her emotions in any material (which is not synonymous with ‘art’),” he wrote in 1929.

In spite of his manifold activities and inventions in the sphere of so-called applied art, Moholy-Nagy by no means advocated abolishing free art. Before, during, and long after his years at the Bauhaus, he produced numerous paintings, drawings, collages, woodcuts, and linocuts, as well as photographs and films as autonomous works of art. Like his design solutions, his works in the classical arts, in painting and sculpture, also reveal his aesthetically and conceptually radical approach. His Telephone Pictures, whose execution he controlled by telephone, exemplify this dimension: using a special graph paper and a colour chart, he worked out the composition and colours of the pictures and had them realised according to his telephonic instructions by technical assistants. He also pursued new paths with his famous Light-Space Modulator of 1930, conceiving his gesamtkunstwerk [“total work of art”] composed of colour, light, and movement as an “apparatus for the demonstration of the effects of light and movement.” It was equally new territory he conquered in the fields of photography and film: considering his cameraless photography, his photograms, and his abstract films such as Light Play Black, White, Gray (1930), Moholy-Nagy must still be regarded as one of the most important twentieth-century photographers and key figures for today’s media theories.

Thanks to his experiments with photography and the photogram, László Moholy Nagy was one of the first typographers of the 1920s to recognise the new possibilities offered by the combination of typeface, surface design, and pictorial signs with recent photographic techniques. As a Bauhaus teacher for typography, he designed almost all of the 14 Bauhaus books published between 1925 and 1929 and – besides co-editing them with Walter Gropius – took care of the entire presentation of the books’ contents and the organisation of their production. With its dynamic cycles and bars and concentration on a few, clear colours, their design resembled the Constructivist artists’ paintings and drawings. While Moholy-Nagy’s early typographic works are frequently still characterised by hand-drawn typefaces, he later strove for a “mechanized graphic design” also suited for commercial advertising through their systematisation and standardisation. After he had left the Bauhaus in 1928, he founded his own office in Berlin, where he, among other things, developed advertising solutions for Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s designs for the Jena Glassworks. Faced with the Nazis’ seizure of power, Moholy-Nagy emigrated to the United States via Amsterdam and Great Britain and founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937 and, after it had been closed, the Chicago School (and later Institute) of Design in 1939, where he continued to champion an integration of art, science, and technology. László Moholy-Nagy died of leukaemia in Chicago on 24 November 1946.

The exhibition at the Schirn also presents the Raum der Gegenwart (Room of Today), which offers a concise summary of Moholy-Nagy’s work. The sketches for this environment, which assembles many of his theories, date back as far as 1930. Not having been built before 2009, the Raum der Gegenwart (Room of Today) is now realised in the Schirn on the occasion of the Bauhaus anniversary 2009.

Press release from the Schirn Kunsthalle website [Online] Cited 20/01/2010

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Light Play Black, White, Gray
1930

 

 

The sculpture Light-Space Modulator is a key work in the history of kinetic art and even the art of new media and, therefore, one of the most important works of art of its time. Conceived initially by Moholy-Nagy at the beginning of the twenties of the last century and built between 1928 and 1930…

Light-Space Modulator was exhibited in 1930 in a show organised in Paris on the work of the German Werkbund. From the point of view of the object, it forms a complex as well as beautiful set of elements of metal, plastic and glass, many of them mobile by the action of an electric motor, surrounded by a series of coloured lights.

Moholy-Nagy used it to produce light shows that he photographed or filmed, as in the case of the film shown here. Although in black and white, the film manages to capture the kinetic brightness of the sculpture.

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view showing Room of Today (reconstruction 2009) with at centre, Light-Space Modulator 1930 (replica)
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
© Photograph: Norbert Miguletz
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Fotogram with Eiffel Tower and Peg Top' c.1928

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Fotogram with Eiffel Tower and Peg Top
c. 1928
Silver gelatin photograph
38.7 x 29.9 cm
Courtesy Galerie Berinson, Berlin
Photo: Friedhelm Hoffmann, Berlin
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view

 

László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective exhibition view showing at left, Photogramm No.II (1929)
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
© Photograph: Norbert Miguletz
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Photogramm No.11' Enlargement before 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photogramm No.II
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
95.5 x 68.5 cm
Courtesy Galerie Berinson, Berlin
Photo: Friedhelm Hoffmann, Berlin

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Marseille, Port View' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Marseille, Port View
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
48.7 x 37.9 cm
Courtesy Collection of George Eastman House

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'SPACE CH 4' 1938

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
SPACE CH 4
1938
Oil on canvas
68.5 x 89 cm
Courtesy Hattula Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'CH BEATA I' 1939

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
CH BEATA I
1939
Oil on canvas
119 x 120 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
Photograph by David Heald
© The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'CH XIV' 1939

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
CH XIV
1939
Oil on canvas
118 x 119.5 cm
Courtesy of Museu Colecção Berardo
Photo: Museu Colecção Berardo/Paulo Raimundo
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'CH SPACE 6' 1941

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
CH SPACE 6
1941
Oil on canvas
119 x 119 cm
Courtesy Hattula Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Dual forms with Chromium Rods' 1946

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Dual forms with Chromium Rods
1946
Plexiglas and chrome-plated brass rods
93 x 121 x 56 cm
Exhibition View, Schirn Kunsthalle 2009
© Photograph: Norbert Miguletz
Courtesy The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Untitled' 1936-46

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Untitled
1936-46
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
27.9 x 35.6 cm
Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy for the Estate of László Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Untitled' 1937-46

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Untitled
1937-46
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
27.9 x 35.6 cm
Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy for the Estate of László Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy. 'Untitled' 1939

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Untitled
1939
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
27.9 x 35.6 cm
Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy for the Estate of László Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Untitled/Night-Time Traffic (Pink and Red Traffic Stream with White Sparks)' 1937-1946

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Untitled/Night-Time Traffic (Pink and Red Traffic Stream with White Sparks)
1937-1946
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
27.9 x 35.6 cm
Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy for the Estate of László Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand)' 1925/29, printed 1940/49

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Self-portrait
c. 1926
Courtesy Hattula Moholy-Nagy
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

 

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Römerberg
D-60311 Frankfurt
Phone: +49.69.29 98 82-0

Opening hours:
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Wednesday – Thursday 10 am – 10 pm

Schirn Kunsthalle website

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18
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Robert Capa’ at Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 3rd July – 11th October 2009

 

Thankyou to the Ludwig Museum press office for allowing me to use these photographs to illustrate the post. Another exhibition about Robert Capa, This is War! Robert Capa at Work is on show at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya from 7th July – 27th September, 2009

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Marcus

 

 

Robert Capa. 'Barcelona or its vicinity, August 1936. Loyalist militiamen.' 1936

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Barcelona or its vicinity, August 1936. Loyalist militiamen
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

 

One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Robert Capa was born in Budapest, on October 22, 1913, as Endre Ernő Friedmann. He started to work as a photographer in the 1930s, first as a correspondent of Dephot, a Berlin-based agency. In 1933 he moved to Paris, where he befriended André Kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour (Chim), and met with the great love of his life, Gerda Taro, also a photographer. He changed his name to Robert Capa in 1935, and his pictures of the 1936-1937 Spanish civil war were already published under this nom de plume. He immigrated to the US in 1939. Between 1941 and 1945, he worked on the European scenes of the war for Life magazine. He was one of the founders of the Magnum Photos agency. He died in May 1954, when he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam.

In 2008, a government grant enabled the Hungarian National Museum to buy 985 of Robert Capa’s photos from the collection of the International Center of Photography, New York. 48 of these are original prints by Robert Capa, and 937 form the so-called Robert Capa Master Selection III. Founded in 1974, the International Center of Photography holds about seventy thousand negatives made by the Hungarian born Robert Capa, considered the greatest war photographer of all time. In 1995, Cornell Capa (Robert’s brother, who died last year) and Richard Whelan (Robert Capa’s friend and biographer) selected 937 of these negatives to represent the oeuvre. Of these, three identical, limited-edition series were made, each excellent 40×50 cm print marked with Robert Capa’s dry seal. No further prints will be made. One of the series stayed in New York, the second was bought by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, Japan, and the third by the Hungarian National Museum. Not only does the series offer a comprehensive overview of the oeuvre, it also enables exhibition-goers to have a visual experience of important events in the history of the 20th century through high-quality material. The 937 pictures were made on four continents, in 23 countries. 461 were made before the Second World War, of which images of the Spanish civil war are the most important. 276 of these photos he made on the fronts of the World War – the poignant pictures of the D-Day landing in Normandy were later to inspire film director Steven Spielberg. 154 photos from after the world war illustrate more struggle and suffering during the establishment of the state of Israel and the Indochina War. 46 images bear testimony to the talent of Capa the portrait photographer, with pictures of Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, John Steinbeck, Pablo Picasso and others. ICP made a gift of large prints of 20 negatives considered especially important in the series, and five portraits of Robert Capa. In all, the national collection was enriched with 1010 photographs.

Robert Capa was a war photographer, with all the important traits of an excellent correspondent: he owned the right amount of persistence, aggressiveness to get to the scenes, resourcefulness and communication skills to match the capacities of a great artist: a high degree of sensitivity, the talent to recognise and choose subjects, and composition skills. Bravely, though not fearlessly, he was there in all of the large wars of the middle of the 20th century, and he struggled with the eternal dilemma of journalists and photographers, whether he is a hyena when his participation stops at recording the events, and does not extend to helping those who flee or are wounded. His vocation, to which his dedication was always complete, was thus a source of moral conflict for him, while also compelled him to show what he considered really important. To show things in a way no one else could because no one else was close enough. “If your pictures are not good enough, you weren’t close enough,” he said. He was close when the militiaman died, he was there in the bloodbath of the landing in Normandy, and he was of course close enough to the Indochina War when he stepped on that fatal mine. He lived an intensive, passionate life, taking risks, even gambling; a life that promised childlessness, social solitude, homelessness and a preordained mode of death. This was probably the only way to live through and show all that surrounded him.

A selection from the new acquisition, about 30 pictures, will be on view in the Hungarian National Museum, between March 6 and 15, 2009. The first large exhibition of this exceptional material opens in Ludwig Museum on July 2, and can be seen until October 11. A travelling selection is also planned, to be shown in ten Hungarian cities.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum website [Online] Cited 16/03/2019

 

Robert Capa. 'Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938' 1938

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938. As the Japanese advanced on Zhengzhou – the crossroads of the two major railway lines of northern and eastern China, and the gateway to the Hankow region – Chiang Kai-shek ordered the dikes of the Yellow River blown up. The flood, which halted the Japanese only temporarily, inundated eleven cities and four thousand villages, destroyed the crops of four provinces, and rendered two million people homeless. In this photograph Chinese soldiers are being ferried across the river.

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Near Barcelona, October 1938' 1938

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Barcelona, October 1938
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Near Barcelona, October 1938. Farewell ceremony for the International Brigades. As an overture of friendship toward Hitler (who naturally wanted General Franco’s fascists to win the civil war), Stalin forced the Spanish Loyalist government to disband this Communist-supported force. This move was a terrible blow both to the Loyalist cause and to the men of the International Brigades.

 

Robert Capa. 'September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman' 1936

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The precocious Budapest teenager who would eventually become known to the world as Robert Capa did not aspire to be a photographer. He wanted to be a writer – a reporter and a novelist.”

.
Richard Whelan

 

 

Capa’s evolution into a press photographer and war reporter (all the while entertaining the idea of filmmaking) was fundamentally determined by history, as well as by factors like the accelerated technical developments in photography, the changes in the printed picture press in the 1920s as a result of the influence of motion pictures, as well as the increasingly refined techniques and strategies of photographers.

Capa distinguished himself among the ranks of war reporters who thought – with the visual appearance of magazine pages already in mind – in series of images that rolled like film footage, and who had the courage and the ability to “get in close” and show aspects of war and fighting on the front lines in a form that had hitherto been impossible, partly due to technological limitations and partly because of the restrictions of censorship.

Capa worked for a number of US and European agencies; his photo reports appeared in the columns of such publications as Vu, Regards, Ce Soir, Life, Picture Post, Collier’s and Illustrated. At the same time, in addition to his work as a photo correspondent, being one of the founders of the Magnum photo agency (1947), educating and supporting young photographers were of primary importance to him.

Following his death in 1954, his brother Cornell Capa, in addition to his own work as press photographer, strove to preserve and introduce to the world the oeuvre of his brother and his colleagues. As a first step, he expanded the International Fund for Concerned Photography, which he had co-founded with others in 1956. Then, in 1974, he established the International Center of Photography (ICP) – one of the world’s most prominent institutions of photography, simultaneously a museum, a school and an archive – with himself as director.

Between 1990 and 1992, Cornell Capa and Richard Whelan looked through Capa’s more than seventy thousand photos and chose 937 of them, the most outstanding photos of his oeuvre from 1932 to 1954, to represent the cornerstones of his life’s work and his career as a press photographer.

In 1995, from the 937 negatives that had been selected, three identical, excellent quality series were produced using traditional photographic technique. These consisted of 40×50 cm enlargements and marked with Robert Capa’s embossed seal. It was determined that no additional series could be made after this time. Of the three series, one remained in New York, the second one found a home in the Fuji Art Museum of Tokyo, and the third set was purchased by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and added to the Historical Photo Collection of the Hungarian National Museum.

Besides the 937 photographs that constitute what is known as the “Definitive Collection”, the Hungarian National Museum also acquired 48 original Robert Capa vintage copies dating back to the same time. The backbone of the exhibition consists of selected groups of photographs. The more than 200 images lead viewers through the key stages of Robert Capa’s career as war correspondent through highlighted themes of his oeuvre, in chronological order.

The exhibition starts off with Budapest – presenting family photos, portraits and other documents – and moves on to the first serious commission in Berlin (the series on the speech given by the exiled Lev Trotsky in 1932, in Copenhagen) and the difficulties of the Paris years. Then we arrive to the most definitive stage in the oeuvre, the three-year period (1936-1939) spent photographing the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which Endre Friedmann / André Friedmann became Robert Capa, one of the most famous war press photographers in the world. Next we see the seats of world war operations: photos capturing the North African, Southern Italian and Sicilian fronts as well as the Normandy Landing on June 6, 1944. The “D-Day” series, which also served as inspiration to film director Steven Spielberg, is followed by images documenting the denigration of the French women who collaborated with the Germans and the liberation of Paris. The sequence of wartime photographs ends with images of the Ardennes Offensive and the advances of the Allied Forces. Capa’s post-world war work is represented by his reports on the establishment of the State of Israel and the associated conflicts, the immigrants and the refugees, as well as the material from his journey to the Soviet Union with John Steinbeck in 1947 and the photos of his 1948-1949 trip around Eastern Europe, which also include some Budapest shots. The chronological sequence ends with Capa’s photographs of Indochina and the photos taken on May 25, 1954, immediately preceding his death.

A separate section is devoted to the photographic documents of his social life, which became inextricably intertwined with his work as press photographer. His portraits which were taken in parallel with his war reports capture people that were important to him – colleagues, friends and lovers – as well as many prominent figures of the era, including Pablo Picasso, Ingrid Bergman, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art Cited 10/07/2009

 

Robert Capa. 'Near Troina, Sicily, August 4-5, 1943. Reconnaissance mission.' 1943

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Troina, Sicily, August 4-5, 1943. Reconnaissance mission
1943
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944' 1944

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops landing on D-Day' 1944

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops landing on D-Day
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'Chartres, August 18, 1944' 1944

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Chartres, August 18, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'Chartres, August 18, 1944' 1944 (detail)

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Chartres, August 18, 1944 (detail)
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Chartres, August 18, 1944. Just after the Allies had liberated the town, a Frenchwoman who had had a baby by a German soldier was punished by having her head shaved. Here she is seen being marched home. Her mother (barely visible over the right shoulder of the man at right carrying cloth sack) was similarly punished.

 

 

Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art

Palace of Arts, 
Komor Marcell u. 1, Budapest, H-1095
Phone: +36 1 555 3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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