Imre Bak


Venue: acb Gallery
Date: Jun 03 – Jul 16, 2021

At the solo exhibition of Imre Bak (1939) organised at acb Gallery, his monumental painting cycle from 2020 entitled Situation makes its debut. Although last year acb Gallery has already shown five new paintings virtually at the Art Basel Online Viewing Room, which focused on artworks from 2020, the entire series can be seen now offline for the first time.

Despite the pandemic, the painting of Imre Bak didn’t lose any momentum and freshness in 2020, furthermore it seems that the artist was capable to react even more sensitively and dynamically to the changes which completely reconfigured our reality. After the 2019 retrospective exhibition which was held at acb Gallery ont the occasion of the the artist’s 80th birthday, Bak opened a radically new chapter. The predecessor of the new painting cycle is a smaller format collage-series, based on the silkscreen folder which was released by acb for the jubileum of the artist. Bak created wild and deconstructed compositions out of the recycled silkscreen pages, similarly to his practice in the 1980s. The uncompromised freshness of the exhibited collages also proove that the artist is not afraid of changes and he is still very much focused on his agenda to create new structures out from earlier ones.

The compositions based on the logic and practice of collages had an enormous effect on the new painting series. The 2019 paintings were dominated by big two dimensional colour planes and systems of paired stripes, which altogether experimented with the creation of minimalist spatial illusion in abstract painting. Compared to the previous harmonic, stabile and restrained structures, the 2020 paintings contain much more spontaneus and dynamic motifs. Furthermore it may even seem that playful figuration enters more powerfully the domain of geometric abstraction than ever before, especially if we consider the most surrealistic motifs of the cycle, like the ‘green cat’ manifested on one of the exhibited paintings.

While the previous 2019 series was focused on questions of space and the reshaping of landscapes and cityscapes, the 2020 paintings are highlighting the motifs of the face and the mask. These motifs can be interpreted also as a continuation of the previous thoughts formulated at one of Bak’s preceding shows entitled ÖN-ARC-KÉP 2017 (self-face-image). The portrait tryptich which dominates the space of the Situation exhibition can be understood as a self-portrait as well, but the paintings are also dealing with the main character of the human face, and the possibility of abstracting it geometrically. The other paintings clearly bear references to masks, emojis and smileys which exaggerate human emotions.

The new paintings of Bak transmit the ever faster changing conditions of our reality, and makes the audience think about the consequences. The restlessly curious artist still challenges himself to find new ways for his painting practice, he also creates links back to earlier parts of his oeuvre. The actual Situation paintings could be interpreted as a way of expanding the the possibilities of geometric abstraction, and as a way to destillate digital image culture, in which even such an archetype as the human face is redefined.

Imre Bak is one of the most important figures of Hungarian contemporary art in the past 50 years. Bak already created his signature style with finding answers to American and German hard-edge and minimalist tendencies. During his whole career Bak consequently improved the toolkit of post-painterly abstraction and geometirc abstraction, balancing the local avantgarde traditions with the universal language of contemporary painting. Among others the works of Imre Bak can be found in such trendsetting public collections as Tate Modern (London), Metropolitan Museum (New York), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Nationalgalerie ( Berlin), MUMOK (Vienna).

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