The sculptures of Dušan Džamonja created a special and very original universe of shapes with results that exceed the spans and possibilities or conditions of rigid disciplinary requirements. However, during his schooling and in his talented beginnings the sculptor not only sovereignly mastered the well-established techniques but also created a series of powerful and impressive works of firm figurative expression.
Born in 1928 in Strumica (FYR of Macedonia) he enrolled in 1945 into the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, as part of its first post-war generation, where during several years he could assimilate best experiences of three teachers – Croatian classic sculptors (Radauš, Kršinić and Augustinčić). He began working in his own atelier in 1953, just at the beginnings of the more liberal creative environment and gradual opening toward more modern achievements. His contribution to innovative procedures was great, even within the framework of monument tasks, which helped his affirmation in the country and abroad (in 1958 and 1959 he applied for creating works for Auschwitz and Dachau).
In1957 Džamonja began to modify standard motifs with stylised variations of the theme of Wounded Deer and then continued by gradual abandonment of bronze in favour of concrete, wood, and metal with insertions of glass as central light nucleus. Accented rhythms of systematically threaded elements and especially harsh texture of surfaces gave to his works an aura of mythic, archaic and totemic world. By using welded nails nailed into wooden axis, he achieved even more dynamic and dramatic effects.
Metal Sculpture XX is an especially relevant result of the mentioned procedure. Upon burning a wooden centre, there opened a powerful inner space of sculpture to which we get an insight through cracks and perforations in the cylinder shaped surface areas resulting in challenging parallelisms of straight threaded prickles on the inner side and by pewter connected nail heads on the outer side. In a way here a confrontation of organically playful outer side and geometrically regulated flow of the „menacing“ interior take place, in any case, an unusually complex outcome of otherwise simply shaped completeness.
Kosta Angeli Radovani, Dunja I, 1957, Modern Gallery, Zagreb
It would be exaggerated to assign a separate position of sculptures by Kosta Angeli Radovani in the modern period of Croatian art only to his exceptional formative conditions: born in 1916 in London and educated at the Milan’s Brera from1934 to 1938 in the class of Francesco Messina. However, very good knowledge of entire European tradition and early encounters with avant-garde and modernist flows enabled him to acquire an exceptional self-awareness and freedom of morphologic moving through diverse challenges and temptations of radical art movements, safeguarding the basis features of his chosen discipline, the clarity of sculptural expression, focus on mass and volume, subtle treatment of surface and sustained dynamism of basic shapes. After returning to his homeland, Radovani attends from 1941 to 1945 a special workshop with Fran Kršinić at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and immediately after the termination of the Second World War undertakes to prove his abilities in creating unconventional monuments. Anyhow, his plastic sensitivity and refined culture were a real contrast to then much in demand socrealistic rhetoric and he was just polemically remote from the exaggerated pathetic of Meštrović’s example, which was necessarily followed by some other sculptors.
Modern by his pureness and reduced modulation, contemporary by his direct reacting and vital orientation, Kosta Angeli Radovani in the 50-ies of the last century greatly contributed to the idea of freedom of creation and to the destruction of mere mimetic understanding of sculptor’s tasks, although he never renounced anthropomorphism – in his own way conceived „figuration“. Very insightful and focused as portraitist, Radovani variated a theme of female nude as his most frequent motif.
The sculpture Dunja I (1957) is an important stage on his way from the summary vision of the selected corpus toward the increased geometrisation and structural indentedness of stylised elements. Determined to use a firm and massive model, he achieved a playful form by vivid movement of limbs and by “activating” the space which a figure takes and encompasses by its positions. He died on 2 February 2002 in Zagreb.
Vojin Bakić, The Bull, 1956, plaster
The work of the sculptor Vojin Bakić covers one of the most interesting, revolutionary periods in Croatian art and presents also a very important link to acquiring freedom of creation within South-Slavic cultural space and to reaching authentic modernist achievements at European scale.
Born 1915 in Bjelovar, Bakić took his degree in 1938 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Robert Frangeš-Mihanović, and started his specialisation with Ivan Meštrović in 1940 and during the Second World War period in the workshop of Fran Kršinić. As an exceptionally talented beginner, he presented himself with a series of subtle female nudes – summarily modelled and softly shaped volumes, to some extent similar to the art of Kršinić. In the first after war years (1945 – 1949) he is engaged on several monument compositions of great dramatic power and already about 1950 starts with strict summarising, reduction to the essential, removal of all descriptive, decorative and strictly mimetic. With his radical reduction and strictness Bakić comes close to geometric artistic directions (‘New Tendencies, 1961), but never transits into the dryness of the program or loses interest for organic and biomorphic incentives.
The sculpture of Bull, made in several versions, is an exceptionally mature and definitive result of a systematic filtering and autonomy of sculptural expression. Still as student, Bakić made animalistic figures; in1950 he had his work – a realistically modelled statue of the bull – exposed at the VeniceBiennale and in 1956 at the same international exhibition he presented himself with a completely new variance of the same motif – a work which rightfully attracted attention and became recognised in the country and abroad as an example of sculptural synthesis and attained power of modelling. Indeed, a heavy mass residing on small conic projections („legs“) gives an impression of hovering, due to its smoothness and a melodic contour of surface area and collects and emphasises its energy in a gently separated suggestion of head, especially through the top frontal points („horns“) through which it seems to expand a compressed inner span of shape.
Vojin Bakić died on 18 December 1 Tonko Maroević
Issue Date: 01.12.2015 Designer: Ivana Vučić and Tomislav-Jurica Kaćunić, designers from Zagreb Illustrator: Tošo Dabac (Bull), photograph from the Archive Tošo Dabac of the Museum of Contemporary Art, proprietors: the City of Zagreb; Goran Vranić (Dunja I), Fedor Džamonja (Metal Sculpture XX) Printer: ZRINSKI d.d., Čakovec Process: Multicoloured Offsetprint Colours: 4 Colours Size: 42.60 x 35.50 mm Values: 1.20 / 3.10 / 4.60 HRK