Cluj Connection 3D

7 Feb 2015 – 11 Apr 2015

Galerie Judin

Berlin, Germany


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Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin, Răzvan Botiș, Mircea Cantor, Radu Cioca, Ciprian Mureşan, Vlad Olariu, Cristi Pogăcean, Gabriela Vanga


Galerie Judin is pleased to pre­sent Cluj Connec­tion 3D, an exhi­bi­tion that brings together eight artists connected to Cluj, Roma­nia, who are working with sculp­ture and installa­tion: Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin, Răzvan Botiș, Mircea Cantor, Radu Cioca, Ciprian Mureşan, Vlad Olariu, Cristi Pogăcean and Gabriela Vanga. Sev­eral of the par­tic­ipants are already well-known, successful fig­ures in the interna­tional art world, oth­ers are younger, promis­ing artists, just be­gin­ning to attract atten­tion.

The exhi­bi­tion is a sequel to the sem­inal exhi­bi­tion: Cluj Connec­tion, curated by Jane Neal in 2006, in collab­o­ra­tion with the Roma­nian artist/curator and director of Plan B Gallery, Mihai Pop, for Juerg Judin, the then director of Haunch of Veni­son Gallery, Zurich. Cluj Connec­tion 3Dreunites the team behind the orig­inal exhi­bi­tion, at the epony­mous Galerie Judin in Berlin and four of the orig­inal artists: Mircea Cantor, Ciprian Mureşan, Cristi Pogăcean and Gabriela Vanga.

In the ensu­ing nine years since the first exhi­bi­tion, it has been inter­est­ing to note that though many of Cluj’s artists are now rec­og­nized interna­tion­ally, and sev­eral of them have come to be described as ’stars’, it is paint­ing and painters such as Adrian Ghenie and Victor Man that Cluj has come to be most renowned for. How­ever, if the art world has pre­vi­ously focused more on Cluj’s painters than its sculptors (with the excep­tion of Cantor and Mureşan who are interna­tion­ally rec­og­nized and respected fig­ures), the time has now come for it to read­just and widen its lens.

Nearly a decade on from the orig­inal Cluj Connec­tionexhi­bi­tion, Cluj Connec­tion 3D has been orga­nized in order to re-formu­late the ideas of the orig­inal show and draw atten­tion to the fact that - along with Cantor, Mureşan and Vanga, sev­eral of the most promis­ing artists of the younger gen­er­a­tion in Cluj are in fact working in three, as well as two dimen­sions. Some of these could be described as sculptors, or as multi-media artists with a focus on sculp­ture and installa­tion, and in a sim­i­lar vein to Cluj’s painters, they succeed in marrying a greater aware­ness of the behav­ioral prop­er­ties of their cho­sen medium and technical pro­ficiency in its han­dling, with a solid ground­ing in the the­o­ries and move­ments that have dom­inated the devel­op­ment of sculp­ture through­out the 20th and into the 21st Century.

With much of con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture focus­ing on the medium’s phys­ical char­ac­ter­is­tics, the object’s rela­tion­ship with the viewer is often over­looked. The par­tic­ipatory aspect of sculp­ture and the need for a viewer to accept a degree of respon­si­bil­ity dur­ing the pro­cess of engag­ing with an encountered object are some­thing that all of the artists inCluj Connec­tion 3D are aware of and share. Also appar­ent is that the major­ity of the work in the exhi­bi­tion revolves around the exis­ten­tial ques­tions thrown up by our human con­di­tion. The art histo­rian Georges Didi-Huber­mann describes how, as we come face to face with sculp­ture (which he believes we often uncon­sciously per­ceive as a hol­low, empty ves­sel), we expe­r­i­ence a deep-seated fear of empti­ness and death. Not surpris­ingly the memento mori is a theme that can be found occurring through­out the show: some­times explic­itly, in the form of the archetypal skull (in this case piled into a giant mound by Olariu, who was inspired by the 19th Century paint­ing The Apotheo­sis of War (1871) by Vasily Vasilye­vich Vereshcha­gin), or expressed as a hid­den, but thinly veiled threat, such as a hid­den knife within an aloe vera plant, which Botiș explores.

The pol­i­tics of power and the role of Church and State (still very much in focus in Roma­nia and often the sub­ject of con­tro­versy) are also ques­tioned in the con­text of this exhi­bi­tion, notably by Mureşan in Teoctist, his re working of Mau­r­izio Cate­lan’s icon­oclas­tic sculp­ture, with the Roma­nian Patri­arch being hit by a thun­der bolt. The strug­gle for supremacy, the employ­ment of pro­paganda and the age-old ten­sion between East and West, are brought up to date and cat­a­pulted into the 21st Century while simulta­ne­ously being exposed as ancient, ever-repeat­ing pat­terns: Cioca uses bas-relief to con­sider the ongo­ing role of pro­paganda in Being Built, and Olariu has recre­ated the Siege of Con­stantinoplewith a twist: it is carved not out of stone, but from the decid­edly mod­ern, indus­trial pack­ag­ing prod­uct, sty­rofoam. War­fare and weaponry are some­times directly ref­er­enced, at other times, alluded to, and through­out Cluj Connec­tion 3D,there are con­stant reminders of man’s bat­tles and fears.

A number of the younger artists, like Boșcu Kafchin, Cioca and Olariu, are engaged in revis­it­ing the ancient sculptural tra­di­tions of the frieze and the bas-relief. The tra­di­tion of the mon­u­ment has also been reconfig­ured: the fig­ure of the hero and a winged Nike have been re-formu­lated and re-con­textu­al­ized. Pogăcean has combined the clas­sical 

hero and the reli­gious icon in a giant recre­ation of the Transform­ers cartoon fig­ure Opti­mus Prime, and Vanga has moved from Nike into a Lego bow and arrow in No Sec­ondary Thought - a not so oblique ref­er­ence to how chil­dren become famil­iar with weapons of war­fare, or even with fight­ing directly. These pow­erful symbols are bal­anced in the exhi­bi­tion by fluid expres­sions of form, such as in the ambi­tious large-scale sheet-metal installa­tions of Boșcu Kafchin and the re-worked Calder mobile of Botiș; both artists being highly influ­enced by the draw­ings of some of the great fig­ures of the last century, like Mar­cel Duchamp or Cy Twombly.

Humor and irony also lace through the works of the exhi­bi­tion, counterbal­anc­ing the more ser­i­ous themes. One darkly humor­ous exam­ple takes the form of a model of the Greek Ortho­dox cathedral that has proven con­tro­ver­sial in Roma­nia for its enor­mous size, huge cost and poten­tial loca­tion. It is to be erected directly oppo­site the parlia­ment housed in Ceaus­escu’s infa­mous ’People’s Palace’. The artist, Mureşan, has made the model on a scale of 1:666,leav­ing us in no doubt that he, at least, regards the pro­posal for the cathedral as dia­bol­ical.

Myths and folk tra­di­tions sit comfort­ably along­side the formal con­cerns of the exhib­ited works - one of the most poignant being Cantor’s ref­er­ence to Bran­cusi’s final birds from his ’Bird in Space’ se­ries that he sent off to an Indian prince, who wanted them for a planned temple of med­i­ta­tion - Bran­cusi had always wanted to combine his works of sculp­ture with archi­tec­ture, so he designed the temple too, which would have housed three of the birds. Two of these three birds were real­ized and sent off to India, but the project and the third bird were never completed. Cantor gives the story a happier end­ing by hon­or­ing Bran­cusi’s orig­inal inten­tion and produc­ing three Future Gifts.

Cioca’s Inner Voice, which reveals two porce­lain doves, one seem­ingly burst­ing forth from the other, also plays to the poetic, as does Vanga with her sub­tle but poignantly per­sonal ref­er­ence to the fam­ily unit and its inter­ac­tion with the world around it, through a flower made from her fam­ily’s shoes. A stencil traced in pig­ment symbol­izes the paths that criss­cross between those within the fam­ily and those enter­ing from out­side, reinforc­ing the notion of the con­stant state of flux in the pri­vate ’safe’ realm of home and the unpre­dictable nature of what might lie out­side in the wider world. Ref­er­ences to con­tem­po­rary pop­u­lar cul­ture are also pre­sent in the exhi­bi­tion. For exam­ple, Cantor’s most recent work, Hypo­thet­ical Ger­i­atric Selfie (2014), engages with the notion of the selfie in the form of a giant star, hand-carved and drilled into the wall of the oth­er­wise pris­tine gallery. The title sug­gests two interpreta­tions. On the one hand, it is evoca­tive of an ancient and per­sis­tent symbol carved by the artist so as to tell who­ever dis­cov­ers it, ’I was here’. On the other, it reminds us that we some­times see the light from a star which, because of the speed at which light trav­els, no longer exists—leav­ing us looking at an old and empty space.

In Cluj Connec­tion 3D, sculp­ture, as a delib­er­ate act of decon­struc­tion in the structural­ist sense, bal­ances with surre­al­ist-inspired, dream­like visions of twisted metal that evoke draw­ing in space rather than solid or con­crete forms. Inter­est­ingly, the interplay of coolly con­trived objects with playful con­struc­tions, hard-hitt­ing installa­tions with humor­ous or ironic inter­ven­tions, and a gen­eral min­gling of influ­ences and varying artis­tic con­cerns, is very much in keep­ing with the vibrancy of the cultural background of Cluj itself. Histor­ically, the city has always been mul­ti­cultural, chal­leng­ing and labile. Sit­u­ated approx­i­mately halfway between Bucharest and Budapest, and with a diverse pop­u­la­tion of Hungar­i­ans, Saxons and Jews - as well as the now predom­inant Roma­ni­ans, Cluj has long been a crossroads for peoples and empires, and, like the rest of Tran­sylva­nia, a cultural heart­land.

Jane Neal is a lead­ing expert on the con­tem­po­rary art scene in Eastern Europe, writes for a var­i­ety of interna­tional pub­lica­tions and recently co-authored Cities of the Future: 21 Century Avant Gardes (Phaidon). She has curated crit­ically acclaimed exhi­bi­tions in Austin, Berlin, Budapest, Dubai, London, Los Ange­les, Milan, Mumbai, New York, Prague, and Zurich. Recent exhi­bi­tions include a Euro­pean fig­u­ra­tive paint­ing show for S/2 in London enti­tled „This Side of Par­adise“ (2014) and „Nightfall: New Ten­dencies in Fig­u­ra­tive Paint­ing“ at MODEM Centre for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, Debre­cen, Hungary (2012), which trav­eled to the Rudolfinum in Prague in 2013. Neal was edu­cated at Oxford Uni­ver­sity and the Courtauld Institute, London, and lives and works in Oxford and London.


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