DUŠAN DŽAMONJA – Fifties / Sixties

The selection of works of Dušan Džamonja produced in the 1950s, to which are added a few years before and a few years after the focal period, is a reminder of a period that is interesting not only as the beginning of the career of a charismatic artist but also as a moment in which there was a global shift in the forefront of artistic production away from figuration in the direction of abstraction. We cannot but wonder if there is anything in the work of the young artist that can be compared with the situation in which personal development was so at one with the forces of the time in which it unfolded and with the feeling that his own creativity made its contribution to them. It is particularly interesting that Fedor Džamonja, the artist’s son and the trustee of the legacy, the initiator of this show and the selector of the works, should have launched the project at the time of a global change of creative paradigm in which – as if we were living in a reversal of the process – the scales are coming down on the side of figuration. The mood of the fifties favoured reflections that aimed at going beyond the existing formula in a unique impulse to expand human experience into areas that were new, technologically, morally and intellectually. And yet today’s incomparably more powerful scientific advance, paradoxically, is unfolding in parallel with an incessant strengthening and expansion of the area of regressive trends in society. As if there were a want of the imagination and the will to conceive radically new creative principles and protocols. Artists have turned to recycling, reshuffling and reshaping, in which there is nothing essentially new, only the other side of the coin of the old appearing. From today’s viewpoint, then, a look at a decade of an artistic career whose excellent beginning in the domain of traditionally understood figurative sculpture is so radically different from the equally excellent abstract sculpture compositions done a decade later comes across as simply surreal. For this reason, then, it is important through the exhibition tellingly to confirm the reality of such a dynamics of events and recall that at least once in history this was a realistic threshold of a creative r/evolution. (From the foreword of Branko Franceschi)

Dušan Džamonja, Croatian sculptor (Strumica, Macedonia, January 31, 1928 – Zagreb, January 14, 2009). Graduated from the Academy of Fine Art in Zagreb in 1951; was an assistant in the master workshop of F. Kršinić (1951-1953). At the beginning, he reduced figurative elements to dynamic, taut forms with symbolic implications. Inclined to technical and formal experiments, he employed new sculptural materials (iron, glass, wire, black concrete) and used non-classical procedures for working them; he wrought, welded and built sculptures by binding together various materials. In works created after 1957 he completely abandoned the realistic motif and built free spatial constructions of outstanding geometrical purity and organic vitality, sculptures of compact or dissected spheres. In this period he also made what were called iron tapestries, or free sculptures that had suggestive effects (Rosette). In his monumental sculptures he built free sculptural bodies that had clear symbolic messages, in which psychological contrasts were achieved with the use of varied materials (iron and glass, concrete and metal). He did monuments in Slavonski Brod (1951), Mali Lošinj (1955), Zagreb (1960), Podgarić (1967) and on Kozara Mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1973) as well as a monumental ossuary in Barletta, Italy (with architect Hildegarde Auf-Franić, 1970). In 1981 the Dušan Džamonja Sculpture Park was opened in Vrsar. Džamonja was a fellow of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts from 2004, and from 1988 a corresponding member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade. He won the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement award in 2007.


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