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Hungarian Modernism

Shepherd & Derom Galleries
58 East 79th Street, (212) 861 4050
Upper East Side
April 29 - June 2, 2010
Reception: Thursday, April 29, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Shepherd & Derom Galleries, in conjunction with the Janos Gat Gallery, presents Hungarian Modernism.

In Hungary, as in most of the Western world, the influence of Abstract painting and Cubism came into its own during the Art d’Aujourd’hui exhibition in Paris in 1925, the first international “non-imitative” art exhibition in France. Side by side with the French, Dutch, German, Italian, and Russian artists were Hungarian artists.

The introduction of the exhibition catalogue asked the question: “Why this exhibition? Not to show examples of the various trends of the day, but to produce an encyclopedic exhibition, as complete as circumstances would allow considering the political and geographic difficulties of gathering these works.” The trends represented in the Art d’Aujourd’hui exhibition were born in Berlin, Moscow, Amsterdam, and Budapest, as well as in Paris. They were at times parallel and independent, but more often mutually influenced. During this part of the 20th century, an important communication network—art magazines often doubling as manifestos—connected artists and studios. Paris seemed to be the catalyst, even for the artists who did not settle there permanently.

Replace Paris with Berlin, Cubism with Expressionism, and you would have the same international participation in any exhibition in Berlin. Then try Milan and Futurism. Much of the same applies. István Beöthy (1897-1961), József Csáky (1888-1971), István Fárkas (1887-1944), Béla Kádár (1877-1956), Anton Prinner (1902-1983), László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), Alfred Reth (1884-1966), György Román (1903-1981), and Hugó Scheiber (1873-1950) belonged to a true “Internationale.” The revolution that may have been condemned to fail in history had triumphed in art history (and still lives on).

And as a footnote, just as with the political activists, most of these artistic instigators came from a Jewish background. The artists of this exhibition, with few exceptions, are Hungarian Jews, or as some of them might have put it, Jewish Hungarians. They, or their parents, in many cases had taken Hungarian names, not to deny their ties to Judaism but to distance themselves from its religious aspect. Artists, in general, tend to be progressive, and quite a few of this group, at least for a while, were committed socialists or communists, as befitting the times. The common background of individuals with similar strivings can be called a coincidence. However, during this period when Central European societies were embracing a Nationalistic mode, it is no coincidence that the switch to an International style was made by their most worldly members.
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