Foreign Matter -“Surrealism” in the Attraction of Reality


Foreign Matter. “Surrealism” in the Attraction of Reality. Selection from the Antal-Lusztig Collection, exhibition of MODEM Art Gallery from 16 June to 31 December 2012.

Surrealism has always been handled with reservations, before World War II and also in the “reconstruction” period. It could not achieve to be a part of the national art scene gaining shape in the interbellum years, even socialist realism did not receive it cordially; what is more, it was explicitly destroyed in this era. Perhaps this is the reason why the problematics of realism became one of the most significant vantage points of Hungarian surrealist ambitions. The most significant theoretician of surrealism in Hungary, Ernő Kállai—in conformity with the philosophical trends and natural science of his age—interpreted surrealist and abstract endeavors to be revealing the hidden nature of nature and the more profound layers of the world, and since the 1940s this has been the major viewpoint in the reception of surrealism, whether for or against, in Hungary.

Margit Anna: The Reaper, 1962

The most significant domestic art movement of the forties and fifties, the European School (Margit Anna, Endre Bálint, Jenő Barcsay, Dezső Korniss, and Lili Ország), also specified as the most important archetype of their “non-socialist” realist efforts two Hungarian “surrealist” painters (Imre Ámos and Lajos Vajda). The former was inspired by Chagall and Bonnard, while the latter covered his peculiarly Central European path following in the wake of Eisenstein and Russian iconography, but the demise of both life works was brought about by the Holocaust. At the time of Communism and Socialism surrealism as a contagion of western decadence could remain a valid art strategy up until the early sixties, and in this way the works of the Hungarian neo-avantgarde trend (László Lakner, Miklós Erdély, and Béla Kondor to some extent), using special materials and vantage points, may also be regarded as a negation of superficial and propagandistic realism. What is more, considering the emphatic use of material and thematics, the paintings and land art projects of some contemporary artists (Imre Bukta, Tibor Gyenis) may also be integrated into the tradition of the “different,” foreign realism.

László Moholy-Nagy: Female Portrait, cca. 1920

Not only the avant-garde roots of surrealism—Dada, expressionism—but also its provocative choice of subject matter (violence, sexuality) make the products of the “war painters” from World War I (László Mednyánszky, László Moholy-Nagy, Lajos Gulácsy) worth a retrospective look. These pieces had been created before surrealism proper was born, while they share its primary source (sensuality and irrationality). The “foreign material” may also cast a compelling light on particular artists of Hungarian realism dealing in an avant-garde application of colors and shapes (István Nagy, József Koszta, István Farkas, Menyhért Tóth), who were probing the limits of the academic genre between the two World Wars, in certain cases with positively forceful result. The works bearing the marks of various artistic intentions and diverse social-political realities mutually strengthen one another’s “foreignness” and “materiality.” This selection outlines a modern optical unconscious repressed by rational modernism, which has found its artistic expression in subject matters and materials strange, alien, and “uncanny,” from classic landscape painting to post-conceptual photography.

Margit Anna, Imre Ámos, Jenő Barcsay, Endre Bálint, Imre Bukta, Miklós Erdély, István Farkas, László feLugossy, Pál Gerber, Lajos Gulácsy, Tibor Gyenis, Balázs Kicsiny, Little Warsow, Béla Kondor, Dezső Korniss, József Koszta, László Lakner, László Mednyánszky, László Moholy-Nagy, István Nagy, Hajnal Németh, Lili Ország, György Román, Erzsébet Schaár, Attila Szűcs, Menyhért Tóth, Lajos Vajda, János Vaszary, Béla  Veszelszky



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *