Program: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 -

Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books

Mladen Stilinović, artist’s books and other materials

e-flux is pleased to present an exhibition of artist books by the Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović, focusing on works produced between 1972 and 2009.

In his extensive oeuvre and through various media, Stilinović mirrors and questions the ideological signs that condition a society. Active in former Yugoslavia during the communist regime, in his art he exposed the symbols that were the strongest expressions of ideology at the time. In agreement with the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin’s statement that “Language is the ideological sign par excellence,” the artist’s interest in language remains at the center of his activities.

In the mid-1970s, Stilinović’s work was often shown in outdoor exhibition actions arranged by the Group of Six Artists, of which Stilinović was a member. His books were later exhibited in galleries, museums, and in the artist’s own apartment. Only a few were printed, but in connection with the exhibition at Index, Stockholm, he published an edition of My Sweet Little Lamb, an artist book from 1993. Stilinović’s early work in poetry and film led to an interest in artist books, which the artist still produces in small handmade editions using simple materials such as photographs, newspaper clippings, and writings in crayon or pencil. They can be seen as a time-based medium forming a kind of dramaturgy, or anti-dramaturgy that escapes a conventional narrative focus: if a story is present, it develops intuitively and in the mind of the reader. Often, as in My Sweet Little Lamb, a leporelo format unfolds the book into a filmic sequence of pages.

An interest in history and time can be found throughout Stilinovic’s oeuvre. With a sense of melancholia and subtle humor, his critical position points to the absurdities and rigid structures in society. His position can be seen as one that purposely insists on the freedom of art and its possibility for offering a radically different perspective. A quotation from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus used by the artist in My Sweet Little Lamb reads: “Everything we see could also be otherwise.”

One of the artist’s books included in the exhibition is entitled Artist at Work (1978). It consists of a series of images of a sleeping, or perhaps contemplating artist. In his text The Praise of Laziness from 1993 Stilinović states: “There is no art without laziness.” During the communist regime, work had strong symbolic connotations, and in his art Stilinović began investigating the relation between the color red and the notion of work. The color red held a unique position among signs in the communist state, and thus became the starting point for many of his works.

For Stilinović, the opposite of red is pink, and, seen as the color of the bourgeoisie, it also became the subject of the artist’s interest. During years of war, when the state of Yugoslavia fell apart, he produced a series of objects in white, a color representing pain and grief. After the collapse of communism, the artist directed his interest towards more contemporary hegemonies, expressed through the English language. His work An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist (1994–96) is a well-known example.

Mladen Stilinović was born in 1947 in Belgrade and lives in Zagreb. From 1969–76 he worked with experimental film. He was a member of the Group of Six Artists (1975–79) and also ran the PM Gallery in Zagreb from 1982–91. His works include collages, photographs, artist books, paintings, installations, actions, films, and video. Stilinović has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows worldwide since 1975.

“Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books” is open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday, 12–6 pm at 41 Essex Street, New York.

For further information please contact taraneh [​at​] e-flux.com.

Reviews
“Mladen Stilinovic”, Art in America
by Mary Rinebold

In 1921, working as Soviet power was being established and its principles cemented, Kazimir Malevich satired the nationalistic veneration of labor, declaring, “I want to remove the brand of shame from laziness and to pronounce it not the mother of all vices, but the mother of perfection.” In 1978, Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović demonstrated the “lazy”... Read more.

Images
View of "Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books" at e-flux, New York, 2010. Wall text made by the artist based on: Ich habe keine Zeit (I Have no Time), 1979.
View of "Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books" at e-flux, New York, 2010.
View of "Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books" at e-flux, New York, 2010. From left: Maturanti (High-school graduates), 2002; Razmišljanje o tuđoj praksi (posvećeno uličnim intervencijama) [Contemplation on other people’s practices (dedicate to street interventions)], 1982; = (death), 1990 and My Sweet Little Lamb, 1993, printed in 2009. Photo: Mila Zacharias.
View of "Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books" at e-flux, New York, 2010. From left: 00000, 2004; Save, 1991/2009; Zastave (Flags), 1991 and =0, 1991. Photo: Mila Zacharias.
Mladen Stilinović, Zastave – Gumbi (Flags – Buttons), 1972 (detail), sewn buttons and staple zipper collage, felt-tip pen and ribbon on plastic bag. Staple binding, paperback, 6 pages, 8.3 x 11.7 in. Photo: Mila Zacharias.
Mladen Stilinović, Bez naslova (Untitled), 1974 (detail). Felt-tip pen, acrylic, adhesive tape on plastic bag. Staple binding, paperback, plastic cover, 18 pages, 5.8 x 8.3 in. Photo: Mila Zacharias.
Opening of "Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books" at e-flux, New York, 2010.
Opening of "Mladen Stilinović: Artist’s Books" at e-flux, New York, 2010.
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