Cortesi Gallery is delighted to present The Concrete Utopia: Ivan Picelj and New Tendencies 1961–1973, an exhibition that explores the neo avant-garde of the sixties and seventies via the work of Croatian artist Ivan Picelj (1924–2011). As one of the founders of the New Tendencies movement, Picelj’s work presents a fascinating opportunity to re-examine this exciting period.
Curated by Ilaria Bignotti, the retrospective features more than 40 works by Picelj, retracing the significant developments of one of the movement’s leading figures. Picelj is renowned for his persistent pursuit of the perfect relationship between perception and knowledge. Through his rigorous ideation and infinite patience for repetition, his forms become a concrete utopia, created as a better way to see, feel and experience the everyday in life.
The exhibition also highlights the central role played by the artist, whose work and artistic explorations range from painting to architecture to the graphic design of posters, catalogues and magazines. Picelj produced a number of graphic design projects for his friends, artists, architects and “spiritual masters”, including Jean Arp, Pablo Picasso, Victor Vasarely, Raphael Soto and Bruno Munari.
The New Tendencies movement began in 1961 in Zagreb, Croatia (then Yugoslavia), where the Museum of Contemporary Art brought together an extraordinary group of artists and critics from around the world. The collective exhibition featured work by Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Piero Manzoni, Ivan Picelj and Paolo Scheggi, as well as others from the ZERO and GRAV movements and both the N and T groups.
The Concrete Utopia would not have been possible without the invaluable collaboration of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, which agreed to the loan of several outstanding works. The artist’s daughter, Anja Picelj-Kosak, also lent her enthusiastic support to the project.
The Concrete Utopia: Ivan Picelj and New Tendencies 1961–1973 is on view at the Cortesi Gallery in London from 26 May to 22 July, and then in Lugano from 14 September to 22 October. It is complemented by an exhibition catalogue, which, in addition to an essay by the curator, Ilaria Bignotti, also features an introduction by Snježana Pintarić, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, as well as a compilation of research notes, documents and photographs.
About Ivan Picelj
Ivan Picelj (Okučani, 1924–Zagreb, 2011) was a painter, sculptor, designer and graphic designer. A student at the Fine Arts Academy in Zagreb between 1943 and 1946, he abandoned his studies to begin experimental research that moved away from the impositions of the official art language.
In 1951, together with architects Bernardo Bernardi, Zdravko Bregovac, Zvonimir Radić, Božidar Rašica, Vjenceslav Richter and Vladimir Zarahović, and painters Vlado Kristl and Aleksandar Srnec, Picelj founded the EXAT 51 group (Experimental Atelier 1951). This was the first Yugoslavian abstract art group, active during the first half of the fifties in the then-dominant climate of socialist realism. The group played an important role in Croatian art; its program advocated the synthesis of all visual art, an idea inspired by the legacy of Russian constructivist avant-garde and Bauhaus experiences.
In 1959, Picelj began a successful collaboration with the Denise René Gallery in Paris, as well as with international galleries such as Howard Wise in New York, Baruch Gallery in Chicago and Galleria del Cavallino in Venice. In the early sixties, he was one of the founders of the New Tendencies movement, which shared several central themes with Picelj’s work, covering for the group as the role of editor of the BIT international magazine, and for the designers of posters and publications that were linked to it.
Since that time, Picelj has produced several limited-edition artists’ books, collaborating with Richter, Vasarely and Alviani artists, amongst others. In 1962, he wrote the manifesto titled, For Active Art, which clearly shows his inclination towards avant-garde thinking.
His works have been exhibited in many renowned local and international institutions and are included in several international museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and Boymans Museum in Rotterdam.
Since 2012, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb has maintained a collection of Picelj’s work, as well as his archives and library. These formed an important gift from Anja Picelj-Kosak to the institution, contemporary art scholars and the public.
Under the Patronage of Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (Muzej suvremene umjetnosti)
Cortesi Gallery will be participating at Brown’s London Art Weekend
1 – 3 July 2016
Cortesi Gallery London: 41 & 43 Maddox Street, W1S 2PD London
Gallery hours: Monday – Friday: 10 am – 6 pm. Saturday: 12 pm – 6 pm
For further information:
Maria Cristina Giusti, Rhiannon Pickles PR, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 7925 810 607, www.picklespr.com