press release

The Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo announces Lightbearing Forms, the retrospective exhibition of Vojin Bakić. The exhibition opens on Thursday, 27th November 2014 at 19 am. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition in Sarajevo is a result of the cooperation between the MSU and the Art Gallery of BiH, as well as financial support from the Foundation Hrvatska kuća – Croatian House, and the City of Zagreb Municipal Office for Education, Culture and Sports. After Sarajevo the exhibition goes to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka (22nd January – 22nd February 2015). This touring retrospective is to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Vojin Bakić, thus continuing a more intense interaction between related museum institutions in the cities of the region.

Vojin Bakić’s Retrospective, Lightbearing Forms, which was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art from 7th December 2013 to 2nd March 2014, aroused a great interest of the public (16,500 visitors), the media and the profession. Described as the largest cultural event in Croatia in 2013, the exhibition was given the Croatian Museum Association’s Award for the Best Organized Exhibition in 2013. The exhibition will bring the BiH audience closer to an understanding of the achievements of his rich oeuvre. Bakić’s creative activity encompassed the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and, in the modernization of expressions that he introduced into the areas of sculpture and monumental sculpture, we can clearly see the global phenomena of modernization that were present in the entire territory of socialist Yugoslavia.

It is not only that Vojin Bakić figures as one of the best Croatian sculptors of the last century, but international critics also recognise him as one of the most important European modernist sculptors. His work encompassed the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and, in the modernization of the expression, which he introduced in the area of sculpture and monumental sculpture, we can clearly see the global phenomena of modernization that were present in the entire territory of socialist Yugoslavia. Until then, his oeuvre was presented piecemeal, and the retrospective at the MSU presented the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s entire work. The retrospective was able to achieve an objective interpretation, and to offer a reading and understanding of the genesis of his abstract, expressive style that was intrinsically tied to the European modernist tradition. With an extraordinary power of vision and superb creation, in the early 1960’s Vojin Bakić made a decisive breakthrough in the design of monumental sculpture on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. He undertook this ideological task eliminating all narration and elevating sculpture to the level of a universal sign with the use of abstract language of high modernism. Also, Bakić’s exhibition prompted many discussions on the fate of the National Liberation War monuments and our relationship to that heritage. All experts unanimously agree: ideological background aside, the artistic value of these works is timeless. It is exactly their abstract expression that exudes a powerful energy of sign/symbol; they are purely aesthetic objects that summarize the collective and individual experience of history.

Vojin Bakić (1915-1992) was an artist of great creative energy who, during almost fifty years of creative work, produced a large number of works of exceptional artistic quality. His works were considered to be exceptionally innovative and progressive already at the time of their creation, and were included in major publications on contemporary international and European abstract sculpture. Vojin Bakić participated in many prestigious international exhibitions: the Venice Biennale, Documenta in Kassel, São Paulo Bienal, Alexandria Biennale, and many others. Starting from figuration and tradition, his expression evolved towards pure form, towards foliated and light, or, as the poet Jure Kaštelan named them, lightbearing forms, towards abstraction devoid of unnecessary detail. According to Vojin Bakić, such light forms express the joy of living, eruption, light. Humanism and affirmation of positive values apparent in his early figurative works remained symbolically present in his entirely abstract sculptures. His quest upon the light, welfare and progress belongs to the modernist utopia Bakić shared with his contemporaries who believed in a better and more humane world in the post-war Yugoslavia. He summed up the search that had a decisive impact on his creation in the following sentence, “Moving through the dark, searching for a cleft with light in, that is, for me, an authentic path…” During the course of fifty years of uninterrupted creative activity, Bakić generated a body of work that fully reflected his great intellectual and artistic commitment, and attained a pinnacle of achievement, in Croatian and European modernist sculpture. He died in Zagreb on 19 December 1992.

The exhibition in Sarajevo will display 175 works, including 110 sculptures representing all his creative periods, drawings, sketches, models of monuments, photographic enlargements, as well as audio and film material. At the same time, his work enables us to understand not only the social and political conditions in which he was creating, but also the life story of that exceptional artist. That sensitive, discrete and self-composed artist ‘only’ wanted to find his own path, by listening to his intuitive inner voice, “The only true development comes from the process of working. I do not believe in the theory that an artist is a God-given creature. I always feel a little bit stupid. A person has an idea, some kind of presentiment; it is a brief moment, sometimes exciting, like a sneaking suspicion… and when you try to realise it, you see that you are powerless, that you miss hundreds of elements. And then you start to palpitate, to run after it like a child until you catch it somewhere, if you have the strength to endure the race, the race for the unattainable…”

This exhibition will not only showcase Bakić’s sculptures but also the works of the artists involved with his monuments taking different positions, ranging from the interpretation of modernist heritage by Marko Lulić to the analysis of utopian models attributable to socialist society, our relation to such phenomena, various issues related to the collective loss of memory found in the works created by David Maljković and Igor Grubić’s critique of the way we tend to treat the monuments celebrating the National Liberation War.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive, bilingual catalogue, comprising texts written by a number of respected Croatian and foreign art historians and art critics. The texts are structured in two parts: the first part comprises texts written by authors exploring various aspects of Bakić’s oeuvre (Tonko Maroević, Zvonko Maković, Ješa Denegri, Nataša Ivančević, Henry Meyric Hughes), the dialogue between contemporary artists and Bakić’s modernist heritage (Leila Topić) and the present situation with Bakić’s monuments in the post-Yugoslav context (Gal Kirn). The second part provides an overview of the most important texts published during the 1950s and the 1960s, as the interpretations of particular stages of Bakić’s development (Milan Prelog, Radoslav Putar, Vera Horvat Pintarić, Božo Bek).

Exhibition curator and catalogue editor: Nataša Ivančević, Chief Curator.