Gabrijel Stupica: A Retrospective

Studio, (1958), pen and watercolor on paper, 22.9 x 32.2 cm
Moderna galerija, Ljubljana; Photo: Dejan Habicht, Matija Pavlovec; Courtesy of Moderne glalerije, Ljubljana

18 December 2013 - 18 May 2014
Moderna galerija, Cankarjeva 15

Curator: Martina Vovk

Last year we were celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest Slovenian painters of the 20th century, Gabrijel Stupica. In tribute, Moderna galerija has staged a retrospective exhibition, the first extensive study exhibition to come after the last survey exhibition of Stupica's oeuvre at the Moderna galerija back in 1968.

One of the most highly acclaimed artists in Slovenia and the former Yugoslavia, Stupica frequently exhibited his work both at home and abroad. Nonetheless, his oeuvre has not yet seen an authoritative and comprehensive presentation in a national museum of art. This then was our goal in staging such a retrospective.

Stupica's extensive oeuvre is here presented with a selection of 123 paintings and 170 drawings, gouaches, temperas, and watercolors on paper, many of which have been loaned by the stewards and owners of numerous public and private collections in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Germany. Among the public collections are those of the Muzej suvremene umjetnosti and Moderna galerija in Zagreb, the Muzej moderne i suvremene umjetnosti in Rijeka, the Muzej savremene umetnosti in Belgrade, the Neues Museum in Nuremberg, the City Museum in Ljubljana, the National Museum of Contemporary History, the Božidar Jakac Gallery in Konstanjevica na Krki, the Velenje Gallery, and the Riko Debenjak Gallery in Kanal. Nova Ljubljanska banka d.d., Adriatic Slovenica d.d., ACH d.d., Univerzitetni klinični center v Mariboru, Radiotelevizija Slovenija, and Zveza svobodnih sindikatov Slovenije have also generously loaned us works from their collections, as well as numerous private collectors from Slovenia and Croatia.

Conceived as a systematic chronological survey of Stupica's creative output, the exhibition starts with his "Zagreb period", the early formative years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (1931-1937) and the nine years he stayed on there, presented here with a selection of typical self-portraits, portraits, and still lifes executed in a traditional painterly manner. His move to Ljubljana in 1946 was followed and characterized by years of artistic investigation, dubbed by the critics as his "dark period": his art at that time was created out of the dark, earth colors of the Zagreb tradition. This is also the time in which the trademark motifs in Stupica's iconography began to evolve: in addition to the self-portrait (a motif that never ceased to fascinate the artist, from his earliest drawings right up until the end), the motifs of a girl and of a table with toys. In 1958 he produced the iconic turning-point Flora, a painting that usherd in a new, "light period", the acme of his artistic development in the 1960s and 1970s. It is here that his most characteristic motifs developed fully: modernist renderings of the self-portrait, the female figure, a girl (at a table with toys) / bride / wife, the studio, together constituting a complete and introverted cosmos of the painter's figurative intimism, and now representing canonical images of Slovenian modernist painting. Stupica's creative zenith is a modernist synthesis of figurative and formal explorations. In the latter, Stupica experimented with modernist approaches to the pictorial surface with tempera, collage, fake collage, subtle glazes and an almost Informel-like direct materiality, creating a unique painterly syntax resulting from his sometimes almost mysterious experimenting with materials, which also represented a formidable challenge in the extensive restoration work that was done for this exhibition by restorers Nada Madžarac, Marijana Kapus Dukarić, and Rebeka Vegelj. Standing out among the works that required particularly painstaking restoration is Stupica's largest painting, Studio (1979-1985), which is now publicly displayed for the first time and introduces the final part of the exhibition, the artist's creative and expressive epilogue in a series of poignant self-portraits done in the twilight of his life.

The catalogue accompanying Gabnrijel Stupica?s retrospective includes an extensive in-depth study by Tomaž Brejc, starting with a detailed analysis of the painter's formative years in Zagreb, and following his artistic development until its peak in his painting of the late 1960s. Martina Vovk's text deals with the subject of the female figure, with which Stupica created a distinct personal iconography in his oeuvre; Sergej Kapus's essay focuses on the theoretical premises of the obsessive repetition of what is perhaps Stupica's most beautiful motif - the table with toys; and Tomislav Vignjević offers his analysis of another emblem of Stupica's art, the self-portrait. This is followed by a reprint of one of the longer interviews with the artist otherwise known for his laconicism. Conducted by Manca Košir toward the end of the artist's life, this interview represents the most extensive personal account of his inextricably intertwined life and work. Moreover, a vast selection of reproductions of paintings and works on paper is published for the first time in this catalogue. The biographical and bibliographical data has been thoughtfully collated by Jana Intihar Ferjan from a nearly inscrutable myriad of data on Stupica's solo and group exhibitions, awards and prizes, and writings about his work. The catalogue has been designed by New Collectivism, and edited by the exhibition curator Martina Vovk.

The exhibition opens on 18 December 2013 at 8 p.m. at Moderna galerija, Cankarjeva 15, Ljubljana, and runs through 15 May 2014. It will be accompanied by a varied program of events to be announced on the Moderna galerija website

The exhibition and the publication of the catalogue are supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

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