– Autumn/Winter 2012

Ivan Kožarić: A Feeling of Wholeness

Ana Dević

Ivan Kožarić, Osjećaj cjeline (The Feeling of Wholeness), 1953—54, plaster, iron, wooden base, 38 x 21 x 22.5cm. Photograph: Darko Bavoljak

‘Since I have been free, all kinds of ideas are coming to my mind, and almost every one of them I find to be good, although they oppose the ideas I had before, which were smooth-running and good.’ 1

— Ivan Kožarić, letter to the imaginary Office for Dispossession of Freedom, 1976

Sculptor, Anti-Sculptor, Non-Sculptor

Since the late 1950s, Ivan Kožarić has constructed one artistic paradigm after another, only to dismantle it later, as if motivated by a constant desire to find yet another artistic gesture and change of direction. The dialectics and contradictions at the heart of his complex artistic position have been summarised by Ješa Denegri, who described him as simultaneously ‘sculptor, anti-sculptor and non-sculptor in the same time, in the same person’.2

Although Kožarić is quintessentially a sculptor, his practice encompasses public monuments, installations, conceptual proclamations, textual works, drawings and paintings. He often makes use of readymades, sometimes experimenting with video or introducing performative elements. The constant transformations in his work are not changes in media or style, however, such as moving from figuration to abstraction, or to a conceptual approach, but a creative process full of upheavals, in which existing sculptures and cycles of works are continually recycled, reworked, rejected, rearranged and re-evaluated.

Like other prominent Croatian artists — such as Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos or Tomislav Gotovac (also known as A.G. Lauer) — Kožarić is intent on creating a personal art system that involves perpetually contextualising his own works in relation to each other. Whereas Gotovac’s system, for instance, is what he calls ‘globally directed’ (a ‘paranoid’ worldview that embraces the grand narratives of film, art, politics and history),

  1. Ivan Kožarić, in Ivan Kožarić (exh. cat.), Belgrade: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1976, unpaginated. Unless otherwise noted, all Croatian translations the author’s.

  2. Ješa Denegri, ‘Sculptor, Anti-Sculptor and Non-Sculptor in the Same Time, in the Same Person’, in Matica Hrvatska (ed.), Ivan Kožarić (exh. cat.), Sisak: The National Library, 2006, unpaginated.

  3. Gotovac coined the term ‘Paranoia View Art’ for his idea of a paranoid worldview in which historical events are ‘globally directed’ as part of a conspiracy.

  4. See Evelina Turković, ‘My Studio is a Laboratory for Vivification’, Antun Maračić and E. Turković (ed.), The Kožarić Studio, Zagreb: Idea Imago, 1996, p.87.

  5. Želimir Koščević, Kožarić (trans. Leonarda Čanić), Zagreb: Naklada Naprijed, 1996, p.67.

  6. In addition to Kožarić, Gorgona included painters Josip Vaništa, Marijan Jevšovar, Julije Knifer and Đuro Seder; architect Miljenko Horvat; art historians Radoslav Putar, Matko Meštrović; and art historian, curator and artist Dimitrije Bašicević Mangelos.

  7. ‘When I came back from Paris in 1960, where I have spent several months, Jevšovar and Vaništa ask me to join the group. Perhaps it wasn’t really a group … Anyway, they asked me to join Gorgona.’ I. Kožarić in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist in H.U. Obrist, Zagreb 16/6/01, Zagreb: WHW & Arkzin, 2001, p.31.

  8. I. Kožarić, quoted in ‘The Five About Themselves and Their Work’, Narodni list, 30 January 1955, p.3.

  9. Radmila Iva Janković, ‘Filozofija hrpe’, 15 dana, no.3, 2009, p.22.

  10. See Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

  11. I. Kožarić in an interview with Zdenko Rus, Život umjetnosti, no.14, 1971, pp.90—96.

  12. Radoslav Putar, in R. Putar, Ivan Kožarić (exh. cat.), Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1962, unpaginated.

  13. Ž. Koščević, Kožarić, op. cit., p.67.

  14. I. Kožarić (interview), ‘I Am Trying to Be an Ordinary Sculptor’, Vjesnik, 7 December 1984.

  15. He declared this at the 6th Zagreb Salon (a local exhibition featuring a new generation of young Conceptual artists, who later formed a phenomenon called ‘nova umjetnička praksa’ — ‘new art practice’) in 1971. See Ivan Kožarić, Zagreb: Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1971.

  16. Quoted in Ivan Kožarić (1976), op. cit.

  17. See E. Turković, ‘My Studio is a Laboratory for Vivification’, in The Kožarić Studio, op. cit., p.80.

  18. As explained to the author by R.I. Janković.