Unless... is the title of Hrastina’s intervention in the exhibition space of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kravata Gallery, which could be more accurately defined as a synthesis of site-specific installation and temporary architecture. Although the title may seem amusing at first, it is actually a result of careful consideration. Moreover, this intriguing conjunction does not only correspond to a specific artwork, but could be applied to Hraste’s entire artistic oeuvre, as well as the history of modern sculpture. It can be interpreted as a departure from conventions and well-trodden paths, from all the norms and rules by which the sculptural medium in particular was restrained and determined for centuries. It implies a process, an always different attitude towards the body of the sculpture, its volume, the material from which it is made, and the space it circumscribes and is circumscribed by in turn.

For Hraste, Unless... means following one’s own sculptural instinct, expanding the concept of sculpture with fresh and inventive thinking, betraying and enriching the traditional genre at the same time, seeking and finding solutions for new and seemingly unachievable ideas in inventive procedures and atypical materials, mostly of industrial provenance, because, as he says, classical materials lead to ordinary solutions. Given that he is a sculptor-builder, in his case the rational, engineering side is equally important, as it leads to the materialization of his ideas in a way that allows the role of material and immaterial factors to remain visible in the final product. However, if there is an aspect of Hraste’s sculpture that should be singled out, it is his fascination and preoccupation with the phenomenon of space. History teaches us that Auguste Rodin was the first to link the existence of monumental sculpture to real space. For Alexander Rodchenko, space had a formal function: it was not an inert entity, but an equally valid element of construction. In his corner counter-reliefs, Vladimir Tatlin turned the specific space, including the walls, into a constitutive element of sculpture. Naum Gabo used transparent materials to open the inside of the sculpture to the viewer, while Henry Moore filled its core with void. In this context, one should by no means overlook the specific objects of minimal art in which the emphasis is on the interaction between the object, the environment, and the viewer.

Hraste’s statement that “in sculpture he is interested in connecting the inner and outer space” and “making the internal assemblies of a statue visible” can be taken as a statement behind his portrait of Ivan Meštrović, which he made in 2016 specifically for the external staircase of the Meštrović Gallery. In order to achieve the desired integration and create an open work, the artist annulled the membrane, and consequently the volume and mass, transforming the sculptural body into a spatial construction with concise anthropomorphic features. The form is only indicated by the iron elements, a kind of drawing in space, while the glass surfaces are merely a discreet reminder of the abolished volume: thus, space has become the dominant content, relegating the bodily components to the background. This departure from the concept of sculpture, in this case a portrait, as an autonomous, self-enclosed, and self-sufficient form is also visible in the manner of presentation. Consciously avoiding a pedestal, Hraste placed the sculpture directly on the staircase, which, in synergy with the airy structure, enabled its unobtrusive integration into the real space, shaped according to Meštrović’s ideas, which is at the same time the core, the mantle, and the environment of Hraste’s statue.

The sculpture 1901-1907, as Meštrović’s portrait is called, is exhibited at Katamaran Art in a completely different context, as an art installation. Subjected to the artist’s intention that it should model the found space, it has lost its exclusive status as an exhibit and become just another element in the new constellation. More precisely its initial unit, with which the spatial torsion and overflow begins and ends. Reciprocally, the gallery space is no longer a neutral framework in which the artwork has been placed, but becomes its integral part. The imposing metal structure occupies the space, which in turn fills it completely. Hraste has positioned the statue, transformed into an object, in the depth of the gallery and away from the centre. Following a diagonal direction, he erected a construction made of galvanized profiles that extend almost to the ceiling, becoming a side of the square cage in which the portrait is trapped. Guided to make a tour, we soon fall into the same spatial trap, and while returning the same way, we have the opportunity to see the concept of constructing space within a space from the opposite direction. From the space of the sculpture, bounded by another space, which becomes a new object that continues to multiply and expand in space. The choice of materials and technology, used in the technique of dry and rapid construction, is by no means accidental. Hraste, however, did not apply plasterboard on the irregularly joined metal skeleton, so the partitions direct the movement without obstructing the view, and without dividing the space into isolated segments. The impression of spatial continuity and connectedness has been preserved, in which all components, including the gallery space, correlate and conduct a dynamic dialogue between larger and smaller, closed and open, internal and external. However, nothing of the offered event in space will be realized unless we adjust our way of viewing and materialize our perception. In short, unless we become active observers and flâneurs.

Kažimir Hraste (b. 1954 in Supetar on Brač) graduated in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in the class of Prof Valeri Michieli. He completed his postgraduate studies in sculpture in Ljubljana in 1984, and spent one semester of professional training in Rome with a scholarship of the Italian government. He is one of the founders of the Academy of Fine Arts in Split, where he is also employed as a full professor of sculpture. He has presented his work at some thirty solo and more than a hundred group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. He is the author of numerous public monuments and statues, among others The Risen Christ in Visovac (1988); Don Frane Bulić in Solin (1991); Monument to Tin Ujević in Vrgorac (1993); City Fountain in Marmontova Street, Split (1998); Monument to King Petar Svačić in Miljevci (2002); Monument to the Soldiers Fallen in the Homeland War in Omiš (2004); The Apple in the Biblical Garden Stomorija in Kaštel Novi (2008); Monument to the Soldiers Fallen in the Homeland War in Ploče, (2009); and Monument to Dražen Petrović in Šibenik (2011). He has received numerous awards, distinctions, and state decorations for his work. He has been a regular member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts since 2022.