“Notes on Undoing”: Croatian Identity at Garis and Hahn

Croatia’s national identity has been significantly molded by the aftermath of the country’s 1991–1995 wars, after which much of the country was left devastated. In the years since, its citizens have coped in various ways as the culture and country have slowly been rebuilt, seeing many former leaders tried for war crimes, continued government corruption, organized crime and unrest. Currently on view at Garis & Hahn Gallery on the Bowery in New York is “Notes on Undoing,” a show of work by contemporary artists from Croatia, who respond to issues of national identity and the growth of art in the face of political unrest.

“Notes on Undoing” echoes the country’s cycles of rebirths and betrayals, and questions existing modes of presentation, relationships, and manifestations of power. Notable in the works presented is a shifting relationship with material, action and identity as a response to space. Damir Očko’s collages explore effect of the human voice on the physical world, while Hrvoje Slovenc’s “Marble Hill” series presents photographs in which the artist investigates human coping mechanisms in response to the loss of one’s home. Viktor Popović produces “non-art” using only found material in his sculptures, which pull together concepts of temporariness and universality, as do Tina Gverović’s drawings, created during a 2013 residency at the Tate Modern.

Some works are explicitly political, such as Igor Grubić’s series “Angels with Dirty Faces,” portraits of the Trepča miners whose strike contributed to the downfall of Slobodan Milošević, photographed in front of angel wings. Other artists rest more heavily on metaphor to describe a national feeling of helplessness, such as in Zlatko Kopljar and Ljiljana Mihaljević's dual Kafkaesque short films: in K16, Kopljar digs a hole for over ten minutes; in The Route (2013), Mihaljević plays never-ending game of hopscotch. Presented together, the works in “Notes on Undoing” provide a dynamic look into the intersections of political, social, and cultural climates in present-day Croatia.

—K. Sundberg

Notes on Undoing” is on view at Garis & Hahn, New York, Nov. 20–Dec. 20, 2014.

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