May 31, 2013 - Haus der Kunst - Ivan Kožarić
May 31, 2013

Ivan Kožarić

Ivan Kožarić, Linije (Lines), 1972. Gouache on paper. Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb – MSU Zagreb. Courtesy City of Zagreb / Studio Kožarić. Photo: Filip Zima.

Ivan Kožarić
Freedom Is a Rare Bird
June 21–September 22, 2013

HausderKunst
Prinzregentenstrasse 1
80538 Munich Germany 
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10am–8pm,
Thursday 10am–10pm

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“I am not an artist, but I compensate for my errors by being a poor sculptor. In my research I came to a position where I now can say I am on the trail of art, and this is enough for me.” 
–Ivan Kožarić, 1971

Ivan Kožarić (born in 1921 in Petrinja, lives and works in Zagreb) completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the late 1940s. He has since become one of the most influential postwar avant-garde artists in what was once Yugoslavia. Freedom Is a Rare Bird represents six decades of his complex artistic oeuvre and is the most comprehensive survey exhibition to date to be devoted to the sculptor outside of his native Croatia. 

“Haus der Kunst is privileged to present a landmark exhibition that represents the museum’s interest to present robust examinations of some of the most significant, but little known artistic figures whose works have contributed to a broad reappraisal of important features in the history of contemporary art.”
–Okwui Enwezor

Kožarić has always kept the character of his works open. He reworks earlier pieces, reprocesses earlier ideas, and intentionally dates works inaccurately or incorrectly. To do justice to this openness, the exhibition is organized according to thematic connections within his work, rather than to chronology, style, or development.

The central theme of the sculptures from the 1950s is the human figure, of which there are numerous depictions including torsos, heads, and portraits. At the same time, Kožarić also experimented with abstract shapes and ideas, which were to become more important in later years in pieces like Osjećaj cjeline (Feeling of Wholeness, 1953/54). In his work, Kožarić intuitively challenged the distinctions between the figurative and the abstract rejceting the necessity of any exclusive determination.

At the end of 1959, Kožarić spent six months in Paris, where he created the sculpture Unutarnje oči (Inner Eyes, 1959/60), an oval face out of which two rods reach toward the viewer like eyes. This sculpture introduced the artist’s increasing preoccupation with negative volume and an inward directed view. 

Kožarić’s Oblici prostora (Shapes of Space) were designed as replicas of urban cavities and voids—negative volumes that were transformed into positive forms. In 1963, Kožarić wrote, “Plaster casts should be made of … the interiors of several important cars, the interior of bed-sitters, trees, the interior of a park, etc., the interiors of all-important cavities in our city.” Conversely, the result—largely abstract, rounded shapes—is the sculptural realization of the idea of emptiness.

His text sketches are usually short, handwritten remarks, and are expressions of the artist’s momentary spiritual and creative state of mind (God, You Are Big!, 01/30/2000). They often display productive self-contradiction, as well as a questioning of his own position (“I see that, were I to work more, I could create something good, something substantial. That scares me! I. K. 87″).

In 1971, Kožarić decided to paint his entire studio gold, including the door, the floor, his shoes, a matchbox, a cabinet, and sculptures from his different creative periods. This action negated the artworks’ immutability and was an affirmative gesture towards all of the other objects: things previously considered worthless could be transformed into art at any moment, and, conversely, art’s value could always be questioned.

With his skepticism of the rules and hierarchies in viewing art, Kožarić literally overturned everything considered a given in art history. For the 1976 Venice Biennale, he arranged a collection of his major sculptures so they appeared carelessly stacked (Hrpa, or Heaps). Kožarić later explained that he developed Hrpa out of the confidence that he would be able to discard everything he had created up to that point, and make even better sculptures in the future. The idea for Hrpa first emerges in the early 1970s by the work Pinkleci (Bundles), which were filled with works and objects from the artist’s studio—a metaphor for embarking on new beginnings and leaving things behind. The exhibition represents the clustering motif with assemblages from the late 1970s, for which Kožarić primarily used everyday objects.

For an exhibition in late 1993/early 1994 at a gallery in Zagreb, Kožarić moved the contents of his entire studio into the gallery, where he lived and worked for the exhibition period. This studio was presented at Documenta 11 in 2002. Since 2007, when the City of Zagreb acquired the work and bequeathed it to the local museum of contemporary art, Kožarić has initiated several transformations of the space, which contains approximately 6,000 works. About 360 works from the Kožarić studio will be presented in the exhibition, supplemented by loans from major public and private collections.

Because Kožarić repeatedly questions his achievements and remains unbiased towards his own work, the term ‘freedom’ frequently appears in descriptions of his works. The exhibition title itself refers to a statement the artist made in 2012. It was not a contradiction when, in 1976, at the “Office for the Deprivation of Freedom, Address and City Unknown” he made the request that “this monster somehow be gently removed” from him.

The exhibition’s opening coincides with Croatia’s planned accession to the EU.

Ivan Kožarić. Freedom Is a Rare Bird is organized by Haus der Kunst in cooperation with the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb.

The catalogue is published in English and German by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, edited by Patrizia Dander and Radmila Iva Janković; with a foreword by Okwui Enwezor, a preface by Snježana Pintarić, new essays by Patrizia Dander, Radmila Iva Janković and Marco Scotini, rereleased texts by Bart De Baere, Ješa Denegri, Antun Maračić, Davor Matićević, Radoslav Putar, and two interviews conducted by Zdenko Rus and Ivica Župan in 1971 and 1992.


Currently on view at Haus der Kunst:

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life
(through May 26)

Mel Bochner – If the Color Changes
(through June 23)

So Much I Want to Say: From Annemiek to Mother Courage – Goetz Collection at Haus der Kunst
(through January 12, 2014)

Der Öffentlichkeit – Von den Freunden Haus der Kunst (To the Public – from the friends of Haus der Kunst) Haegue Yang
(through September 22)

Coming soon:

Joëlle Tuerlinckx – WORLD (K) IN PROGRESS?
(June 9–September 29)

Paper Weight – Genre Defining Magazines 2000 to Now
(July 12–October 27)

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