press release

24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971 07.11.2019 - 02.02.2020

Horia Bernea, Ion Bitzan, Liviu Ciulei, Radu Dragomirescu, Serban Epure, Pavel Ilie, Paul Neagu, Diet Sayler, Ritzi Jacobi, Peter Jacobi, Ovidiu Maitec, Miriam Raducanu, Grupul Sigma, Radu Stoica, Vladimir Setran

Alina Serban, Stefania Ferchedau

“24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971” opens a series of dossier exhibitions and explores the 1960s and ‘70s visual and performing arts in Romania. Research of the Demarco archives in Edinburgh revealed, in hindsight, a number of forgotten narratives, fragmented or impossible to follow in their original temporal flow. The narratives evoke disparities/fractures in what might otherwise be perceived as an homogenous cultural landscape; they allow trans-national contact and transfer areas with both the West and with other Socialist countries to surface.

The present exhibition looks at the late 1960s and early 1970s Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde against a regional and international background generated by major shifts in the history of Central and Eastern Europe. Benchmarks for this analysis are the “4 Romanian Artists” exhibition (Ion Bitzan, Ritzi Jacobi, Peter Jacobi, Paul Neagu), which travelled in 1969 from Bauzentrum Hamburg to the Demarco Gallery, and the “Romanian Art Today” exhibition, designed in association with events the 1971 Edinburgh Festival dedicated to recent developments in contemporary Romanian theatre, poetry and dance.

A broader analysis of the local artistic phenomenon looks at shifts in Romania’s foreign affairs policy of the time which inevitably shaped the public cultural agenda and made possible a range of new (institutional) possibilities. In turn the latter marked the intense though brief encounters between Romanian art and the Richard Demarco Gallery projects. At micro-level, the analysis captures the post-1965 shifts in visual and performing arts, at a time when artistic gestures became increasingly more empowered and individualized as attitudes grew more anti-formalist, and self-reflexive. This perspective also opens new avenues as to the locally developed relations between new art practices and (official) Socialist art of the time. Last but not least, such deconstruction of cultural (ex)changes underlines the former’s role in positioning contemporary Romanian art in relation to similar regional and international developments.

The exhibition, whose title is inspired by Paul Neagu’s poem “24 Arguments” (1984), invites a multi-layered reading of the various experiences and tempos blending with institutional and individual narratives, local conditions and global dialogues, using as departure pointer a series of works conceived around this time. Rather than looking at biographical connections and links, the exhibition investigates the existence of a common spirit defining an entire generation of artists.

Works by Horia Bernea, Ion Bitzan, Liviu Ciulei, Radu Dragomirescu, Șerban Epure, Pavel Ilie, Ritzi Jacobi, Peter Jacobi, Ovidiu Maitec, Paul Neagu, Miriam Răducanu, Diet Sayler, Radu Stoica, Vladimir Șetran, the Sigma Group, are complemented by Mădălina Dan’s reinterpretation of Miriam Răducanu’s “Genesis”, created especially for this exhibition. “Genesis” was originally performed as part of a late-evening programme organized at the Țăndărică Puppet Theatre in Bucharest in the late 1960s. The programme brought choreographer Miriam Răducanu a well-deserved reputation. “Genesis” (music by Anatol Vieru) was performed at the “Romanian Art Today” exhibition in Edinburgh in 1971.

The exhibition “24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971” is produced by the Institute of the Present in collaboration with the National Museum of Art of Romania and the Demarco Archive.

Research and exhibition concept: Alina Șerban
Research and artistic direction: Ștefania Ferchedău