Invention and experimentation saves this figurative art show from indulgent surrealism, argues Michael Bird
Vitality in an honest revival of figurative art is on display at this exhibition of young Austrians and Romanians, but only when the artists ignore the exhausted tropes of surrealism, abstract and pop art, which all carry the baggage of greater works from the last century.
Exhibited at the Galeria ¾, ‘7 Parallel 7’ is a joint venture between Bucharest’s Anaid Art Gallery Romania and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as the Museum of Young Art Vienna, to present two-dimensional art from both countries in cultural dialogue.
An inventive recreation of portraiture is present in Bernhard Buhmann’s ‘Centrifugal Performance Axis’ and ‘Butterfly’ (both pictured), which show young people not talking to one another. The subjects are more interested in striking a pose or staring at the viewer than listening to those close to them. It is a neat objective comment on the arrogance of the young.
Meanwhile, taking a sling-shot to the passivity of his own country, Sorin Tara scribbles violent felt-tip images on historical maps of the Balkans, including Romanians as monkeys or massed under a spur decorated with a Soviet insignia.
However Markus Dressler’s juxtaposition of a bear-like cat in the New York Guggenheim and at Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist shrine Fallingwater shows that charm, often repeated, can transform into irritation.
Also Romanian Suzana Dan’s ‘Evil wins, always’ shows a decapitated Superman, Snow White as a serf to a red-eyed black dog, while her seven dwarves lie carved up like fresh cuts of pork. The introduction of Gothic elements to comic art is an easy subversion. How hard, after all, is it to terrorise a cartoon character?
A curating coup is the contrast of Alexandru Razvan’s naively painted Roman orgy, packed with syphilitic men pleasured by children and dwarves, vomiting next to attack dogs, while centre-stage screams a newborn baby, its umbilical cord flapping loose. This is hung opposite Klaus Wanker’s semi-pornographic painting of two women in the throes of soft-core action, emblazoned with the words ‘low budget satisfaction’.
This is a thought-provoking exhibition which shows that while the Austrians focus more on the drama of relationships and sex, Romanians are more concerned with investigating what kind of culture they now represent – is it Latin, Balkanic, urban or peasant, post-modern or traditional?
‘7 Parallel 7’
Galeria ¾ ‘Artexpo’ entrance,
Teatrul National Bucuresti
2 Blvd N Balcescu
Wednesday to Sunday
10:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs
Until 18 May