Critics’ Picks

Goran Trbuljak, Jazz Brush Painting (Left Hand), 1991, canvas, oil, paint, bell, 12 x 10 1/2”.

Goran Trbuljak, Jazz Brush Painting (Left Hand), 1991, canvas, oil, paint, bell, 12 x 10 1/2”.


Goran Trbuljak

Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève
10, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers
May 30–August 19, 2018

In 1971, the twenty-three-year-old Goran Trbuljak, invited to create his first solo show at a public institution—the Galerija Studentskog in Zagreb—exhibited a single work: a simple poster bearing a black-and-white photograph of his face and the phrase Ne želim pokazati ništa novo i originalno (I do not want to show anything new or original), 1971. With this gesture of refusal—not only to present anything new or original but also to display any traditional artistic product—Trbuljak began to pave an artistic path of rare consistency, exploring a radical domain that was later termed “institutional critique.”

Here, Andrea Bellini has curated an exhibition, titled “Before and After Retrospective,” that, with instructive clarity, aligns the fundamental stages of this Croatian artist’s development from the late 1960s to the present. A selection of textual and photographic works, works on canvas, and some short films make it possible to also appreciate what is profoundly original and idiosyncratic about Trbuljak’s production. For example, his subtle humor, which is sometimes mocking or melancholy. Or his persistence in delving into the paradox of an art that asserts itself by renouncing itself, and which succeeds inasmuch as it fails. This paradox is most fruitful in the group of (anti-)paintings that conclude the show, works which Trbuljak began in the 1970s as an implicitly polemical act against painting’s reigning comeback. In making these small canvases, the artist prohibited himself from using a paintbrush, instead letting color seep in from the back or from holes in the frame, or by pummeling them with a percussion brush soaked in paint, as in Jazz Brush Painting (Left Hand), 1991, a purple-hued monochrome save for the bottom right corner, where the artist’s hand rested. In their formal elegance and wit, these works hold their own against paintings accomplished through more traditional methods.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.