White & Black

Exhibition in the Vasarely Museum

17 May 2007 - 17 June 2007

Artists featured at the exhibition are:

Hans Arp - Imre Bak - Etienne Beöthy - Eduardo Chillida - Balázs Czeizel - Ulrich Erben - András Gál - Tibor Gayor - Filkó, Laky, Zavasky - István Haász - Károly Halász - Katalin Hetey - Simon Hantaí - Lucien Hervé - György Jovánovics - Julije Knifer - Imre Kocsis - Tamás Konok - Attila Kovács - Ferenc Lantos - Josef Lischinger - Peter Lowe - Anna Mark - András Mengyán - Rune Mields - Manfred Mohr - Vera Molnár - Marcello Morandini - Francois Morellet - Ben Muthofer - István Nádler - Aurelie Nemours - Yves Popet - Axel Rohlfs - Sigurd Rompza - János Saxon-Szász – Michael Seuphor - Péter Türk - Victor Vasarely - Ryszard Winiarski

This exhibition is already the third one organised in the museum in Óbuda by the Open Structures Arts Association (Nyílt Struktúrák Művészeti Egyesület).

Various Pairs of Black and White opposites

The possibilities of engagement with black and with white are infinite but not boundless. What can be grasped even through common sense – that colours, for example, fall outside of boundaries – while the rest belongs to the realm of science and philosophy. "Black or White", "Yes or No", "Positive or Negative" – such common decisions determine the course of our lives while everything else that is to be found between the two poles provides their content. The works of art on show at this exhibition find their place either somewhere between the two extremes or consciously examine the relationship between the two.

I draw a line on white paper with Indian ink in the knowledge that I'm not drawing a billion other lines at the same time; I take a black and white photograph but am less able to influence the countless lighter or darker dots that create the picture, ranging somewhere on the scale from "soot black" to "snow white". These two examples lead to what is perhaps the most tangible aspect of the world of art: that the line is the basic element of every type of drawing, graphic, shape (as silhouette, as outline), form: the photograph perhaps symbolises how light (and its opposite, shadow) moulds form and mass while the contrast between black and white makes it possible for us to sense them with the aid of our eyes.

According to another optical-theoretical commonplace, neither black nor white is a colour: one is the complete lack of colour and light (a lurid black surface absorbs light, while the other is the sum of all the colours of the spectrum, or light itself. In reality and in artistic practice, neither perfect black nor perfect white exists: at most there are paints of varying quality and mixtures of these, and countless possible observers whose eyes and psychological functioning, feelings and thinking, receive the spectacle – a given work of art - in various ways.

In 20th Century art it has not been rare for black or white to appear as one or the other of Art's "point zeroes". Kazimir Malevich's Black Square on a White Ground and Ad Reinhard and Pierre Soulages' Black in Black are well known, the first is pedantic, geometric and speculative, the second, expressive, gesture and informal – a path followed until very recent times by István Nádler, whose broad brushstrokes allow the light to glimmer on them. On the other side, in the province of white, Malevich is again the étalon ( White Square on a White Ground). Here he is not content with simply the virgin purity of the empty canvas, but paints white onto white in order to turn the etheral into something cosmic. A continuation of this was made in the 1970's by three Slovak artists, Stano Filko, Milos Laky and Jan Zavarsky with their White Space, in which surfaces painted with various whites, qualities of material and objects move on the scale of material and immaterialness. A characteristic problem of painting is that seen from the view of the monochrome tendencies a canvas painted with homogenous black or white is only one or the other possibility among the countless ones for colour mixing and shades of colour. At the same time, if the monochrome is set against the achrome (colourless or the white-grey factor or object in its material, in the work of Piero Manzoni and others) then the materialist view of painting is set against its conceptual continuation.

Artists working with a strictly visual logic or with geometrical forms examine the contrast of black and white. The possibilities for such an examination extend to the creation of signs of black on a white ground (or the reverse) – or even, in order to create a completely articulated "visual language", or following a strategy of conceiving the surface (and space) as a unit to be articulated and filled, to the making of square nets, matrixes, grids, and dot-matrixes. In this sense, Étienne Béothy, Hans Arp or the "print creator" Károly Halász and Simon Hantai can be considered as black and white sign and language producing artists while Fracois Morellet, Ryszard Winiarski, Victor Vasarely and Tamás Konok work with grids and nets. The two types do not of course represent any kind of strict division as, for example, Julije Knifer, Véra Molnar and Tibor Gayor's motifs and series show both continuity and change, while we surmise that there is a virtual net of squares stretched behind them. A poetic conception of the way in which the two principles depend on each other is provided by the title given to Rune Mields' sign paintings: The Coordinates of the Universe I-III.

The greater part of the material chosen for the exhibition with „strict subjectivity" by Dóra Maurer and Zoltán Prosek came about independently of computer thinking. Yet it is impossibe for us not to notice that digitalization would summarise later in a higher form the validity of the opposites observable here. Not only in that computer imaging has foced us to learn a new dualism and this is the analogue/digital opposites, but also in that on computer screens, printouts and 3D animations, the countless qualities of the "empty and the full," the "dark and the light," and "the is and is not" are mixed up together with extraordinary subtlety and sophistication at the level of the pixel.

It is equally true of the art of more than a few decades ago and of the contempory situation that the majority of artists do not speculate but rather instinctively apply the black signs to the white ground (or the reverse) or in other cases the colours in the space, basic elements in relation to complicated structures. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Open Structures Artistic Society is fulfilling with its selections a didactic mission – and this is its fourth exhibition. At a time when there is more interest in certain social problems, cultural assertion and brutal attention-grabbing, the Society is able to point to studio work, the mechanisms of visual effect and the significance of artistic research.

László Beke