Ivan Kozaric: New graphics

The Art Of Reduction

In nature we find all that we want, but a man has to be cultivated enough to want to find only what is needed. (A. Lohte)

One of the earliest Ivan Kožarić’s graphic realisations which remained preserved, is the one that starts this exhibition of graphic plates: a small tin-engraving, 10×10 cm. At first, it presents two boys sitting on some kind of elevation. Their shapes are completely simplified, utterly reduced, chiaroscuro, ‘lean’, without any descriptivity, with no details. When I found out that it was Kožarić’s first, or one of the first graphics, which also brought the shapes of the boys, I thought it could be an attempt to present childhood memories, when he spent his summers in arcadic Komarevo in Banovina, where he comes from.

After a more detailed analysis, however, despite of his very unadorned presentation, it seems that the contents of this tin-engraving has nothing to do with Banovina. Through the way the two male figures are laid , by the dead calm, almost lifeless posture of their bodies, for me, as the one coming from Dalmatia, it was immediately obvious that it is something ‘sea-like’ about it. It seems that I could even guess the time of the day which Kožarić tried to depict, to ‘catch’ the summer mood of the two boys sitting on a rock in a moment when the sun is in its highest climax – in the early afternoon – therefore their limp bodies do not even have the strength to jump into the sea, but only for siesta.

Kožarić confirmed that it really was ‘marina’: the tin-engraving he made in 1946 in Lovran, where at that time, he was working on church restoration.

This small piece reflected his graphic work, presented to public, for the first time here, in the Miroslav Kraljević Gallery. This oeuvre which on the seventeenth graphics exhibition in 1992 won the HAZU Cabinet Award (Croatian Academy of Arts and Science) and the First Prize on ‘Eurograz ‘93 (Ostblick-Westblick)’ in Graz, the same exhibition which was this year (‘95) presenting the Republic of Croatia on 21. International Graphics Biennale in Ljubljana, meaningful and significant for his sculpture, painting and graphics – first of all with the ultimate reduction in expression, almost minimalist. However, with extremely insignificant resources, deeply and authentically preoccupied with his own idea, as it can be witnessed by this small half-a-century old tin-engraving. Kožarić, through just a few strokes, with great precision and clarity , energetically and confidently – brings to life the maximal visual and general art message, rich and meaningful.

His fasting-like reductionism on one, and the maximum of the art message on the other side, the constant present also in his graphic oeuvre, dating from the first Kožarić’s works. It simply is an important part of his complete artistic vocation, that he stands for even before the biggest temptations; which also proves the less known fact, when in 1956 in the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Senj Kožarić worked on the Crucifixion, he simply left out Jesus’s encounter with Pontius Pilatus – it is not there, but it surely is present!

From the many present graphic techniques, Kožarić uses tin-engraving as the first one, and dry-needle as well as copperplate. Why? He respected those graphic techniques because he saw in them those characteristics which in the best way, as well as most directly follow his artistic idea. He might have embraced them because he – competent and sure – likes directness and spontaneity, not counting on possibilities of correction or ‘embellishment’ that are made possible thanks to present advanced printing industry.

Besides, the principle of experimenting, so significant for his work, the constant of his creation (‘One should take risk in order to go forward in the right way, to find oneself’; ‘To keep the continuity of disagreement with oneself’; ‘Every time from the beginning’, are only a few of the demanding maxims that Kožarić clings to) can be best actualised through these graphic techniques.

As far as Croatian graphics and art in general is concerned – which is also very conditional – we could say that Kožarić is closest to artists dealing with aesthetics of minimalism. In the end, however we could say that Kožarić adorned by an extremely individual way of dealing with the graphic problems, and in Croatian graphics we rarely witness such interpretative freedom. Therefore it is utterly impossible to connect him to the existent graphic classifications. For graphics he is some kind of a precedent – with no predecessors or successors.

Ivica Župan

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Ivan Kožarić was born in Petrinja, in 1921. He studied sculpture on the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the classes of sculptors Frane Kršinić, Vanja Radauš and Antun Augustinčić. His first exhibition was in 1953. In the beginning of the sixties Kožarić was one of the founders of Gorgona, legendary art group from Zagreb. Among the numerous solo and group exhibitions Kožarić participated in Venice Biennial 1976 and 1997 (as a part of Gorgona exhibition), Biennial of Sao Paolo 1979, and was a central artist in selection of contemporary croatian sculpture for the exhibition in Duisburg 1994. For his work Kožarić received 17 awards. His 11 sculptures were erected in public spaces and he performed 15 “urban interventions”. Ivan Kožarić was president of Croatian Association of Visual Artists. He is member of Croatian Academy of Arts and Science. He lives in Zagreb. Exhibited are 12 graphics performed in 1992. – 1995.