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El Lissitzky & eR Sikora

17. March 2019 - 30. June 2019

Curators: Willem Jan Renders, Katarína Bajcurová

The main intent of the double-exhibition metaphorically entitled El Lissitzky & eR Sikora is to retrieve and update the thoughts, ethos and artistic legacy of the Russian revolutionary avant-garde. The Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands, owner of an unprecedented collection of works of El Lissitzky, and the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum in Bratislava-Čunovo have collaborated on an ambitious and unique project which combines – over time and space – two figures, two oeuvres, two visual and ideological worlds: the world famous master of the 20th century avant-gardes, Constructivism and Suprematism, Lazar/El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) and conceptualist Rudolf Sikora (1946), one of the major representatives of Slovak and Central European avant-garde. The Van Abbemuseum presented a similar, positively received project in which the works of El Lissitzky were presented in several museums and galleries all over the world alongside the works of another Russian neo-avant-gardist, Ilya Kabakov and his wife Emilia Kabakov, 2012/2013). The opening ceremony of this exhibition in Slovakia was attended by the artist, who in our country was considered as one of the few, in fact the only artist who systematically and continually worked with the legacy of the Russian revolutionary avant-gardes. He reflects and interprets the spiritual legacy of the innovative acts of its main representatives (Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko, etc.), and through them he reacts to more general issues of social utopias and their impacts – frequently tragic – on the life of the people and social systems in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Lazar/El Lissitzky exhibition (on the ground floor and two balconies) will be comprised of a unique collection of designs, paintings – gouaches, aquarelles, drawings, graphic sheets, posters and illustrations from the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (with an emphasis on the 1920s). Part of the exhibition will be dedicated to the reconstruction of theater and architecture designs (famous projects of utopian skyscrapers, cloud-irons), objects – so called prouns (project for the affirmation of the new), which represented Lissitzky’s own form of combining painting and architecture. Ironically, El Lissitzky, who is one of the iconic figures of Soviet and European avant-garde, a predecessor of modern and contemporary architecture, art and design, is more famous abroad than in Russia (the New Tretyakov Gallery and the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow organized a comprehensive exhibition of his work only recently, in late 2017). This was also thanks to the fact that he spent the first half of the 1920s in Berlin, participated in the publishing of artistic and architecture journals, and cooperated with the de Stijl Movement and other prominent representatives of the international avant-garde. On the other hand, until his premature death he wanted to change the world through art: he sided with the revolution and Soviet power; through avant-garde-radical and non-conformist forms the idea of Communism was disseminated, it was part of the political and monumental propaganda of the Soviet state; in the 1930s after switching to Socialist Realism, El Lissitzky continued to work with innovative exhibition design and applied graphic art. This will be the first time that such a wide range of his work will be presented in Slovakia.

The exhibition of Rudolf/eR Sikora (on the 1st floor) will be outlined as an independent visual and ideological parallel to the visual world of El Lissitzky’s works. The carefully considered selection will work with his older and more recent works, as well as their new artistic re-interpretations (from the 1970s up to the present); the emphasis will be placed on several cycles, the visuality of which is close to or inspired by the expression and sign repertoire of the Russian revolutionary avant-gardes. Even today, social activism is an essential aspect of Sikora’s personality which has found natural application in his artistic concepts full of ethical – and today especially ecological – apellativeness (as most recently demonstrated at the Eko(ko)mix exhibition in the Bratislava City Gallery, 2018). He is one of those creators who with full personal involvement, shoulders the burden of the cross of civilization and social problems of the individual and mankind and searches for strong artistic metaphors for them. Almost hundred years after El Lissitzky, Rudolf Sikora suggestively points to the state of the contemporary world and human civilization, to what happened to beautiful utopian ideas, where the dreams of Russian revolutionary artists, El Lissitzky among them, came crashing down... The works of both artists are linked however, over time, but also by their visual and immanently artistic aspect: a direct and laconic language which does not lack a peculiar Constructivist poetry, work with photography, photo-montage, text and object created on the borderline of painting, sculpture and architecture. The name of this exhibition works with the pun (and its graphic form) derived from the acronyms of the names of both artists.

Katarína Bajcurová