Szerkesztő: Leposa Zsóka

Szerkesztette 2015-ig: Fitz Péter

Fotók: Bakos Ágnes, Tihanyi Bence, továbbá ismeretlen szerzők

Logo: Trombitás Tamás

Oldaldesign és WP téma optimalizálás: Eln Ferenc

© Fővárosi Képtár, 2014


Lajos Barta – Survival Strategies

30 May 2019 – 22 September 2019 | Oratory

Mária Árvai, Zsóka Leposa, Ulrich Winkler

Graphic design:
Zoltán Szmolka

LAJOS BARTA (1899–1986), a sculptor informed by European tendencies from an early age on, found his artistic voice, his mature, abstract style only in the latter half of the 1940s. At which point he was almost fifty and has already survived forced labour service, the holocaust, and World War II. As a member of the artist group European School, alongside his partner Endre Rozsda, freedom was but a fleeting moment for him. With socialist realism gaining ground, from 1947 onwards, abstraction was ousted from the official art scene. In order to make ends meet, Barta was taking official commissions for public sculptures in the socialist realist style and went his own way secretly: drawing sketches for sculptures and experimenting with forms. After 1956, Hungarian cultural policy was marked by a détente, a fact evident in Barta’s several public works realized at the time, all verging on the abstract. Artistic fulfilment, however, still eluded him in the 60s, and in 1965, he moved to Cologne. In the last twenty years of his life – circa half of the active years considering the length of the mature period of the artist –, he could work freely and was able to make a living from his art. His abstract ideas of shape took form in large-scale public sculptures in Germany.

Lajos Barta

Untitled (Dance Competition), 1948, pencil, paper | King St. Stephen Museum

Not to display the oeuvre in its entirety but rather to present focal points and crucial phases of Barta’s career to the public in the light of his artistic strategies is the aim of this exhibition. It tries to answer the question: How did, in the given historical situation and under certain (cultural-)political circumstances, Barta comply with the expectations and retain his artistic integrity and autonomy at the same time. In addition to the drawings and sculptures, the exhibition sheds light on the historical context of the works and offers insight into the complex interplay between art and authority. Supplemented by the accompanying catalogue, it examines what kinds of artistic strategies arise in Bartha’s oeuvre from the constant attempts at adaptation – to heteronormative society, to an artworld stifling experiments in abstraction, and, later, to the home country of his choice.

Alongside material from Hungarian public and private collections numerous works from German collections are on display previously not seen by the Hungarian public.

The exhibition and the bilingual catalogue are realized in a collaboration between Kiscelli Múzeum – Fővárosi Képtár, Martin-Lantzsch-Nötzel-Stiftung Köln, and Goethe Institute Budapest.

Lajos Barta

Force, 1957, bronze on wooden pedestal | King St. Stephen Museum

Lajos Barta

Self-Portrait from 1923, 1923, pencil, charcoal, paper | King St. Stephen Museum

Barta Lajos (1899–1986)
In 1911, he studies under ceramist Richard Zutt at the Hungarian Royal Institute of Arts and Crafts and later as a private pupil under Ede Telcs. In 1936, he enrols at Vilmos Aba Novák’s private school, embarking on a field-trip to Vienna and Italy with his brother István from 1920 to 1923. Between 1925-1927 and 1938-1943, he lives in Paris with Endre Rozsda. Returns to Budapest in 1943, must go into hiding during the holocaust. Member of the European School between 1946 and 1948, executes public sculptures in the style of socialist realism from 1949 onwards while secretly also pursuing consequent endeavours in abstraction and Surrealism. In 1965, he moves to the Federal Republic of Germany where, until his death, he lived in Cologne with frequent visits to Paris (1970–1974). Starting out as a representative of art nouveau, his work is hallmarked by Classicism until the mid 1930s. Acquaintance with Endre Rozsda in c. 1935–1936, after which the majority of his earlier work is destroyed; during his second stay in Paris he encounters Surrealism. He works on crude figures of grotesque animality and, for the first time in 1943, non-figurative pieces. As a member of the European School, his sculpting is characterized by soft, organic, seemingly malleable forms modelling absurd states of balance and suggesting the rhythm of vegetative existence along the lines of the light-hearted abstraction of Hans Arp. In the 50s, he continues his non-figurative studio-series, variations on the dynamic-rhythmic interpenetration of elements and, simultaneously, submits to official competitions socialist realist entries. Settling down in Germany, he receives commissions for portraits on the one hand, and proceeds with his organic and non-figurative, apparently gravity defying sculptural work indebted to the classical avant-garde, a few of which he could execute large-scale. His estate was acquired by the King St. Stephen Museum Székesfehérvár in 1986, that is, a legacy which combined the rigorous forms of Constructivism with poetic subtlety and followed, in many respects, in the footsteps of Arp and Calder as far as sculptural ideas are concerned.

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