The selection of works of Dušan Džamonja done in the fifties, reinforced with those created a few years before and after the period of particular interest, is a reminder of a time that is interesting not only as the beginning of the career of a charismatic artist but also as a moment in which there was a global shift in major art away from figuration and toward abstraction. We cannot but wonder if there was anything in the work of the young artist to be compared with the situation in which personal development was in accordance with the forces of the time in which it took place and with the feeling that his own creative work was contributing to them. Particularly interesting to us is that Fedor Džamonja, the artist’s son and the executor of his father’s estate, in the case of this exhibition also the initiator and the selector of the works, set out the project in a period of a global change of creative paradigm in which it is as if we were living in an inverted process, the scales having come down on the side of figuration. The mood of the fifties suited reflections aimed at the surpassing of existing formulae in a single big push to expand human experience into technologically, morally and intellectual new areas. Today, the incomparably stronger development of science is going on, paradoxically, hand in hand with the uninterrupted strengthening and expansion of areas of regressive tendencies in society. As if there were a surcease of the imagination and will needed to conceive of radically new creative principles and protocols. Artists have turned to recycling, rearranging and remodelling, in which there is nothing essentially new, rather the new appears only as the reverse of the old. From today’s viewpoint, then, a look at a decade of an artistic career whose excellent beginning in the domain of traditionally understood figurative sculpture is so radically different from the equally excellent abstract sculpture compositions done a decade later comes across as simply surreal. For this reason it is important with this exhibition vividly to confirm the reality of such a dynamics of events and to recall that at least once in history this was a realistic threshold of creative evolution/revolution.
(from the essay by Branko Franceschi)
Dušan Džamonja, Croatian sculptor (Strumica, Macedonia, 31st January 1928 - Zagreb, 14th January 2009). He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1951 (A. Augustinčić). He was a collaborator of the F. Kršinić’s Master Workshop 1951-53. In the beginning, he reduced figurative elements were to dynamic, intense forms of symbolic meanings. He preferred technical and formal experiments, applied new materials (iron, glass, wire, black concrete) and used non-classical sculptural procedures: his sculptures were welded or constructed by connecting various materials. In the works created after 1957 he completely abandoned a real motive and built free spatial structures of outstanding geometric purity and organic vitality, sculptures of compact or scattered spheres. In that period, he produced the so-called iron tapestries or free standing sculptures of suggestive effect. His monuments were free standing structures of clear symbolic messages, in which psychological contrasts are achieved by the usage of contrasting materials (iron - glass, concrete - metal). He executed monuments in Slavonski Brod (1951), Mali Lošinj (1955), Zagreb (1960), Podgarić (1967), Kozara, BIH (1973) and memorial-casket in Barletta, Italy (with architect H. Auf-Franić, 1970). "Sculpture Park Dušan Džamonja" was opened to the public in Vrsar in 1981. He was a regular member of the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts since 2004, since 1988, a correspondent member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade. He won the Vladimir Nazor Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2007).