Quotations – 1. | Glimpses of the 1990s
10 October 2023 – 3 December 2023

Quotations – 1.

Glimpses of the 1990s

Opening: October 10, 6.30 pm

Opening speech: Zsolt Kozma, curator of the exhibition

Quotations – 1.

Glimpses of the 1990s

In the part of 2023 still ahead of us, INDA Gallery dedicates two exhibitions to the art of the 1990s. Works are selected from an era in which, for many of us, a time of youthful experimentation, search for self-awareness, first experiences and making statements of self-definition coincided with the time of experimentation, search for self-awareness, first experiences and strong statements of self-definition of the newly born democracy in Hungary.

Our exhibitions will present works of the practice of artists who work with the gallery and were already active in the last decade of the 20th Century. The first quotations are from the contemporaneous works of Lajos Csontó, Róza El-Hassan and András Ravasz. All three belong to the generation of artists emerging in the 1990s – even the oldest of the three, Ravasz, who was known also as a member of the Újlak Group in the 1990s, was only in his early thirties in 1990. The drawings, graphics, photos, lightboxes and objects exhibited in INDA’s three rooms represent three markedly different practices, illustrating not only these artists’ scopes of research and experiments but, to some extent, the tendencies of the era and the vast array of searches and experiments at the time.

Róza El-Hassan

In the first room, the scroll hung along the entire length of the main wall is a work in its own right, and at the same time, a kind of map, or rather catalogue, of El-Hassan's stretched objects and of the large wall object installed on the opposite side of the room. Her stretched objects, wall objects, books placed on the wall, sculpture and the two small drawings of demonstrate a connections between the artist's practice and vision in the 90s and today. In her own words: "Much has been written about my early objects and stretched objects. Peter Weibel and Eszter Babarczy , among others, have described them as objects that fit into rational conceptual, Cartesian systems of thought, and as objects that push the boundaries between visible and invisible forces.

Little, almost nothing has been written about my new objects – they do not fit into any category.

For me, however, preparing for this exhibition feels as if time has stood still.

While restoring my old objects, I don't feel them to be more rational than the new ones. The new works interpret the old ones and the old objects interpret the new ones – and not much has changed in essence.

In the oldest works here, as well as in the untitled large, two-figure installation, made between 2020 and 2023, the same indefinable, rather irrational, but certainly mysterious force is present, which often manifests itself as creative energy, and which has, sometimes, turned against me. It is an inner energy that sometimes produces analytical, philosophical writing, sometimes inspires performative object-making, or socially critical work and long-term projects of activism.

Between 2016 and 2022, this internal energy, in combination with external circumstances, turned against me.

Psychiatric treatments followed, but today I can say that this is all a thing of the past. It no longer casts me out of society, but rather, propels me into dynamic creation.

In recent years, I have experienced a situation where I was happy when homeless people talked to me in the street, or experienced various forms of hunger, being cast out and housing problems.

Friends and colleagues brought me and my old and recent works back from deep down – I kept those works close through all the difficulties, even when nothing seemed to work anymore.

My most recent work, a sculpture of two seated figures, was made in difficult times, when I was running out of some tools and other tools were getting blunt, but I was still creating art. This sculpture is held together by a different kind of force – the power of imagination and the desire to create. Two heads:

The two screaming heads show an influence of the spatial and temporal polyphony of Cubism, by Albert Gleizes' book titled Cubism. The other part of the sculpture is a robot-like portrait rooted in my I fear that our souls would be manipulated by AI robots. The two heads and figures are repeated, in a smaller version, inside the statue. It is all about the power of love, about togetherness that has great power, so the two figures are two chair-like shapes, which together overcome hardship. The stylized chair is a symbol of power. At the same time, I tried to use humour along the lines of absurdity.

For years I have wished that there were a gallery that exhibits this work with its seemingly chaotic art-brut structure.

While my most recent drawings, of which two are exhibited here, are more patient and harmonious – a kind of equilibrium is at work in them that is difficult for me to foresee during the work process. It is the same kind of equilibrium as in my earlier expressive sculptures. They constitute a kind of microcosm, like haiku poems do. During the process of making them, I need to pay special attention to stop neither too soon not too late, in order to catch that momentary state of equilibrium.

This is the greatest challenge for me in many of my works – especially in my drawings.”

Lajos Csontó

The part of the Quotations exhibition selected from Lajos Csontó's works from the 1990s does not begin in the room presenting his works, but in the lobby of the gallery, with the words És mégis, és mégse (And still yes – and yet, not) made up of a series of pictures of individual letters (or rather letter-images?, or picture-letter-images?).

Chronologically, this work dates later than almost all the photos and graphics presented in the works in the room devoted solely to Csontó’s works. And unlike the other works exhibited here, the meaning in the work hung in the lobby is constructed from letters selected from texts in the background and magnified to the extent of becoming clearly visible, and then, in their turn, these letters are assembled into another text on the wall. Letters and texts as images are characteristic of many of Csontó's works and series, but this line of his oeuvre is represented only by this work in this exhibition. We have placed it in a distinguished position, separated from his other pictures in this show not only because in his room we have focused on non-text images. This work is displayed in a prominent position, introducing the entire exhibition, because it is symbolic of our selection of works for Quotations as a whole. Just as in the oval pictures a glass ball (eyeball?) highlights a letter from a faintly visible text and makes words out of it, composing meaning, somehow we also selected and highlighted pieces from a historical period and three oeuvres, arranging them in units or, if you like, "words" in each room.

In the middle room of the gallery you can see nineteen graphics and photos by Csontó. We opened the 1990s here to include the very end of the 1980s partly because we considered it more important than to represent certain groups of textless works with their antecedents than to keep very precisely to the decade. As a result, our selection also illustrates the evolution and transitions of certain techniques, motifs, references and meanings.

András Ravasz

The process of transition from analogue to digital changed the world in the 1990s. András Ravasz is an outstanding Hungarian representative of this transition from an era to the next, a phenomenon that thoroughly and irrevocably changed the economy, politics and culture. The works and unique documents presented here illustrate not only the width of the thematic range but also – inseparably – breadth of the medial scope of artistic practices of the time: from analogue photography or even photogram to digital still image manipulation, from Super-8 film to video, from screen printing on wafers to light-boxes, the use of music, to performance.

Of all of Ravasz’s works emblematic globally of the period and also of his range of techniques, his vision and sensitivity, his (127x252 cm) inkjet print on paper entitled Timeless, from 1999, is exhibited in Hungary for the first time now.

András Ravasz is one of the founders of Újlak Group – he presented some of the works included in the current exhibition as part of the Újlak projects, and so were his performances documented here part of the group’s events. Such was his performance titled Homage á Yves Klein at the Újlak Cinema in 1990, presented at his solo exhibition. The looped Super-8 film showed a figure jumping. A unique photogram of the film’s frames is exhibited here.

The screen printed series titled Edible Money was made for the exhibition Újlak exhibition s Port at the Palme House. Three of the bills printed on wafer are displayed here, the forints are screen printed on the dough of the legendary Ziegler wafer factory, while the other currencies appear on church host used for communion.

Documentary photos of Ravasz’s performances are displayed as a separate section. Each of these images is unique, so much so that even the negative of some of them is lost. These include the 1989 Fire Signals performance, where he used a blow torch to cut signs into a iron plate coated in soot, then, at the end of the performance, he poured water on the glowing iron, and painted the whole plate with lime a few days later. In another memorable performance in 1991, individual documents of which can be seen here, he used the signs of the navigation flag code language to ask the question "What are you thinking of?", and then he wrote it on the wall with charcoal as well.

While the 1990s were already the theme of some of INDA's exhibitions before the COVID years, the timing of our two upcoming shows is no coincidence: they partially overlap in time with the exhibition entitled TechnoCool, New Directions in Hungarian Art of the Nineties (1989-2001), to open in the Hungarian National Gallery at the end of October.

On view: 11 October – 30 November, 2023

Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday: 2-6 pm