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Separate Ways. Karl-Heinz Adler and Hungarian abstract art

Separate Ways. Karl-Heinz Adler and Hungarian abstract art

1 June - 17 September 2017

Separate Ways
Karl-Heinz Adler and Hungarian abstract art 

An exhibition jointly presented by the Petőfi Literary Museum – Kassák Museum and the Kiscell Museum – Municipal Picture Gallery

Opening: May 31, 2017 (Wednesday)
5 pm: Kassák Museum (1033 Budapest, Fő tér 1.)
6.30 pm: Kiscell Museum (1037 Budapest, Kiscelli utca 108.)

Karl-Heinz Adler is a significant figure of German abstract art. The Kassák and Kiscell Museums present his ambitious oeuvre in the context of Hungarian art and architecture.

The exhibition on view in the two Óbuda museums builds on the work of Dresden-based artist Karl-Heinz Adler (1927). The work of Adler, who is turning 90 this year, is currently undergoing revaluation in Germany. The Eigen+Art Gallery (Berlin) presented his retrospective last year and, simultaneously with the two exhibitions in Hungary, the Albertina in Dresden is also showcasing his work. Adler, a significant figure of German Serial and Concrete art, was already 55 years old when, in 1982, a small gallery in Dresden first showed the minimalist collages he had been developing since 1957. From the 1970s and ’8¬0s onwards, he had been in touch with Hungarian artists János Fajó, István Nádler, Dóra Maurer and Imre Bak, but in general, his person and his work was not known in Hungary. 

These two exhibitions allow Adler’s work to shed new light on certain little-explored aspects of Hungarian art and they potentially also recontextualize the German artist’s oeuvre. Kassák Museum presents a summary of Adler’s abstract art from the 1950s until today. Some of the issues closely connected to Adler’s work were also topics of heated discussion in socialist Hungary and the GDR. The exhibition sheds light on the parallelisms (or differences) that characterized views on abstraction in the political and artistic spheres of Germany and Hungary. The pre-1989 ideological context is also evoked: the dictates of the era’s cultural policy affected the work of Adler as well as that of numerous Hungarian artists. Some of these artists—the ones who came in direct contact with the German art scene of the time, e.g. Imre Bak and János Fajó—are given voice through the video interviews on display. The exhibition of Adler’s work and its Hungarian aspects presents a unique opportunity for a comparative regional survey of the philosophy and reception of abstract art in the 1960s and ’70s.

Using Adler’s work as a point of departure, the exhibition in Kiscell Museum focuses on a little-explored topic. As his work was an example of abstract art, Adler was not allowed to participate in the official East-German art scene from the 1960s until 1988. At the same time however, his abstract geometrical forms made out of concrete were very popular decorations for facades and partitions; as a result, Adler’s architectural sculptures became a defining feature of the streets of Dresden and Berlin. Albeit a lot more subtly, but the dichotomy of banning abstraction in fine art but accepting it as a form of applied art was also characteristic of Hungarian cultural policy in the Kádár era. The Kiscell Museum’s exhibition explores a peculiar aspect of “Hungarian abstraction”: starting out from Karl-Heinz Adler’s geometrical architectural sculptures, it examines the ways in which geometrical abstraction appeared on Hungarian public buildings in the ’7-0s and ’8¬0s. Instead of chronological or art historical considerations, the exhibition examines the topic using an exciting and diverse set of criteria that brings together a variety of different ideas. 

Besides a survey of the relations between abstract art and architectural decoration, Kiscell Museum’s exhibition also explores the social and cultural policy factors that made it possible to realize abstract works in public spaces (as decorations for the interiors or exteriors of buildings), while autonomous abstract art was much more severely confined by official cultural policy. The topic is presented comprehensively, with the use of interviews, documents, and artworks, supplemented by concerns of urban history, fine art, and the history of architecture. One of the exhibition’s intended goals is to direct public attention to hidden urban gems. In line with this goal, the museum is announcing an open call to find similar artworks and organizes urban walks to visit the works evoked by the exhibition. Thus, the museum fulfills its mission of interpreting urban space as an extended museum and the museum as a discursive space.  

Kassák Museum and Kiscell Museum – Municipal Picture Gallery are committed to a complex examination of the interconnections between various cultural spaces, the processing of events in recent history, and the exploration of the intricate web of relationships connecting art and power. The current exhibition, realized in both museums simultaneously, is a part of this endeavor.

Curated by:
Edit Sasvári, Anna Juhász (Kassák Museum) 
Márta Branczik, Zsóka Leposa (Kiscell Museum – Municipal Picture Gallery)

Design: Imre Lepsényi
Translation: Júlia Laki
Contributors: Attila Batári, Péter Herendi, Attila Nagy, Katalin Sugár, Zsombor Pólya
Communication: Ágnes Hajnal, Boglárka Kőrösi

The exhibition is realized in partnership with the Galerie Eigen+Art Leipzig/Berlin.

The exhibition was realized with support from: the Embassy of the Federate Republic of Germany, Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen.
Special thanks: Municipality of Óbuda-Békásmegyer, Imre Bak, János Fajó
Partners: Budapest Video, Goethe Institute Budapest

Image: Karl-Heinz Adler: Schichtung mit Dreiecken / Layering with triangles, 1959
Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin. 


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