The art group Gorgona was intensively but quietly active in Zagreb in the period between 1959 and 1966. Its members were painters Josip Vaništa, Julije Knifer, Đuro Seder and Marijan Jevšovar; sculptor Ivan Kožarić; architect Miljenko Horvat and art historians and critics Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos, Matko Meštrović and Radoslav Putar.
The group did not have a strict programme, but rather linked individual artists on the basis of common understanding of the world imbued with the overall feeling of absurd, but also with desire for different understanding of art freed from the burdens of the past. On the one hand they were inspired by the existentialist philosophy and on the other by the oriental wisdom of Zen Buddhism. The members of Gorgona started their own search for spiritual and artistic freedom simultaneously to the several groups and individuals in Europe and America who similarly worked on expanding the limits of art, bringing it closer to life itself. The Gorgona members practiced the unconventional, new forms of art that manifested in simple acts such as group walks, exchange of mail or ideas that were not necessarily materialized. In order to preserve their independence from the official exhibition venues, they rented a frame shop (Shira Salon) in Preradovićeva Street in Zagreb and organised and funded exhibitions themselves.
The whole group willingly existed on the margins of the art scene of that time and through many of its group and individual actions anticipated the art procedures that would be affirmed only one decade later. Such was the photo-posing (the word ‘performance’ was still not used) at the opening of the first major solo exhibition of Julije Knifer in 1966 at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. This anticipated the practices of artists that later criticised the system of representation itself. Acting as an audience, patron, adversary or arbitrator, the Gorgona members assumed the position of critics of Knifer’s exhibition.
The standpoints of Gorgona, comparable to Duchamp’s statements about “breathing more important than the production of art” are primarily manifested in the state of the spirit that more than anything rejects middle-class conventions. One of these conventions, prone to Gorgonian criticism, is the painting as such, as an object of academic and middle-class culture. Although he chose painting as his basic medium, Knifer’s search that ends in finding a way of creating an anti-painting, has found its nurturing soil in these views, where with the time the personality of the artist and his work become inseparably intertwined.
In 1961, Julije Knifer created an anti-magazine Gorgona No.2 by connecting the pages of the magazine into a continuous closed sequence of an infinite meander. The same year he executed his seminal work Meander in the Corner, thus breaking the plane and creating an ambience. In 1962, in the Gorgona’s spirit of irony and paradox, from the position of humble grateful Citizen Knifer wrote the Request to the Yugoslavian Academy of Arts and Sciences. His later Notes (1976/77), presented at the exhibition alongside his works, show the same Gorgona-like quality. While explaining the enigma of the repetitiveness of his meanders, the Notes sentences, like the ones from the Banal Diaries that he was writing from 1950s until his death (2004), occasionally repeat with more or less variations, and start to resemble reflective meanders.
Curated by Rada Iva Janković and Ana Knifer
Exhibition counsellor: Zvonko Maković