Kassák and Kassák 2.
28 March - 15 June 2014
Kassák and Kassák 2.
RESURGENCE and REJECTION
Western and domestic perceptions of Lajos Kassák in the 1960s
Opening: 28 March 2014, 6 pm
Venue: Kassák Museum
Opening address by: Péter György
Curator: Edit Sasvári
The exhibition will be open until 15 June 2014.
The Eastern European avant garde enjoyed a rediscovery by both art historians and art dealers in the 1960s. This resurgence brought Kassák back into the artistic milieu of Western Europe. An exhibition in Paris set off a string of one-man and group shows in Geneva, Munich, London, Cologne, Torino, New York and elsewhere. Western attention concentrated primarily on the consistent, undeviating master of the avant garde, and so after his Paris exhibitions of 1960 and 1963, Kassák reworked several of his pictures from the 1920s. He also reformulated in a stricter mood some of the lyrical abstract paintings he had produced in the late 1950s. After his death, forgeries of his work appeared in various parts of the world.
At home, however, Kassák experienced no acceptance from either the authorities or the conservative majority of the Hungarian artistic community, and at the same time as the Paris exhibitions he was confined to peripheral exhibition venues in Hungary. The authorities found abstract art intrinsically unacceptable; the artistic community simply regarded Kassák as a dilettante. Nonetheless, his personal charisma made him a major figure in Hungarian intellectual life even in old age. Kassák became the archetypal left-wing modernist artist-revolutionary. It was a story which had its roots in the 1910s and 1920s. The charismatic image he established at that time survived undented through several historical eras and was the driving force of his latter Western career.
Resurgence and rejection. These words concisely sum up Kassák’s peculiar dual position and everything which his artistic activity touched on in the 1960s.
The new exhibition takes a comprehensive look at this phenomenon, one not without precedents. The Hungarian National Gallery considered the question in its 1987 exhibition (and catalogue) of Kassák’s oeuvre. Then in 2009, at the “Kassák and Kassák” exhibition, art historian Gábor Andrási, former director of the Kassák Museum, examined the artist’s output between 1959 and 1967 from the perspective of style criticism and aesthetics.
Taking Andrási’s thesis further, we set out to discover the challenges which simultaneous official rejection and international interest posed for an elderly artist cut off from the world. The exhibition focuses on his characteristically Eastern European dilemmas and on how decisions made at the time stemmed from – and subsequently influenced – art history, museum exhibition and of course the life of the artist himself.
Top: Lajos Kassák: Kompozíció [Composition] (Oil on canvas, 90x100 cm. c. 1959, repainted between 1960 and 1963. Exhibited at: Denise René Gallery, Paris, 1960. Private owner.)