THE HUMAN FORM
The ubiquitous change in the environment and in the attitudes towards the arts that occurred around 1950 also affected those artists not involved with the large‑scale production of public works. The majority of Yugoslav sculptors still worked alone, within their private studios. The genekal feeling of artistic permissiveness seeped into their isolated work spaces and allowed them to join the trends towards free expression and experimentation. Since they were no longer bound to any public standards or specifications, they were able to branch out in many stylistic directions. one group of sculptors chose to confine its explorations to the frame of figurative expression, where various possibilities of interpretation of the human figure could be realized. These artists occupied themselves with the problems imposed by the modeling and carving of their media in order to attain the beauty, expressiveness, meaning and character contained within the human form.
The artists who fall within the domain of figuration have a common denominator only in theme: the human figure. Their approaches to:‑their theme, their choice of medium, their relationship to their material, their motivation, and their goals, are entirely different. One can find, therefore, contemporary sculpture in Yugoslavia that looks like the classical inhabitants of the Parthenon pediment, as well as pieces that resemble bizarre creatures from a hypothetical future. There are figurative sculptures which emphasize the emotional, expressive qualities of the human being, and there are those distorted by the human imagination to resemble machines, demons, or toys. The choice of materials of these sculptors varies from traditional ones such as stone, wood, and bronze, to contemporary ones like steel, plastic, glass, or any combination of media.
A sculptor who maintained close ties to the more traditional aspects of figurative sculpture is Kosta Angeli Radovani. He stayed loyal to the human figure during his entire creative career. He "started with figures influenced by Maillol, and still produced sturdy little nudes which have almost an African primitive quality about them." 1 His female figures in wood, bronze, and terra cotta, articulate his interests in the full, elemental plasticity of the human anatomy, his "true‑to‑material" preoccupation, and the creation of maximal meaning with minimal reduction. As Darko Schneider, Yugoslav art critic, pointed out, to understand Radovani, one must be aware of the spontaneous Mediterranean zest for life: Mediterranean practicality perpetuates life. In the aridity of progress the art of living is a precious thing and a small and humble human exchange is reason for seeking a suitable parameter.
Biological union in emotion has many material associations and the environment which is absorbed in childhood is the inheritance of the figure. A woman‑figure, therefore, is a logical result.2 The woman‑figure, warm, radiant, and full of natural sensuousness, is Radovani's art indeed. Woman on a Tree Stump II (Fig. 37) radiates vitality, freedom of inspiration, warmth, and optimism. Radovani emphasizes the casualness of the seated young girl. She is not monumental, not even stylized, but sensuous and intimate, as if she has her own thoughts, feelings, and heart. Nothing is more natural and less rigid than the curves of this young woman, whose body has its appeal in the simplicity of the form and the casualness of the pose. Because of the position of the hands and the movement of her head, she looks like she is ready to demonstrate a difficult pose of equilibrium required for some kind of spiritual meditation. It is the potentiality of these gestures and movements that establishes communication between the piece and the viewer. This se nsitive balance is responsible for the intense expression which animates this bronze and makes verbal communication seem immanent. While Radovani is concerned with revealing the gentle, beautiful truth inherent in a human being, the Macedonian artist Boro Mitriceski shows a darker, more agonizing truth. His vision is shaped by the Macedonian life itself. He is aware of the depths of the soul, and expresses the idea of disease which disturbs and destroys the serenity and purity emphasized by Radovani.
His wooden figure titled Pain (Fig. 38) is seated in an uncomfortable position, which gives it an undignified emotional force similar to that felt in the work of the late French genius Auguste Rodin. Like Rodin's innovative partial figures, the figure is deprived of its limbs. The surface is rough, and the pain conveyed through its form and texture culminates in its split‑open head. Its minimal anatomy, uncomfortable posture, and the active, almost aggressive leaning forward into a 45 degree angle symbolize both continuity and self‑destruction. The figure seems no longer able to endure the pain and is making its last attempt to transcend the physical limitations of the human condition.
Another piece by Mitriceski titled Model (Fig. 39) also conveys its message through its gestures and its incomplete human form. The figure is not so much simplified as mutilated, and looks as if it had been attacked, with the skin hacked away by the sharp edge of an ax. It is through such a deliberately wounded structure that the painful condition of humanity is articulated. Within the theme of pain and destruction is also a counter‑theme which adds a stronger sense of pathos to the work. The voluptuousness still apparent in the lower torso suggests fertility. The desperate struggle for life which continues despite the hardship of the hard Macedonian existence is conveyed in the taut bow of the back as the figure seems to attempt to rise despite its condition.
Ante Grzetic is another veteran of the school of human figure carvers who also sometimes makes short excursions into the world of imagination. Most of his work is figurative, however, and has associations of ancient, broken figurines which have survived the corrosion of time while retaining much of their original form. Grzetic's intellect is always in control. of his medium, his process, and his aesthetic, and allows no spontaneous accident. This style results in precisely balanced forms occasionally unbalanced with slight differences in weight, which hold together in a quiet composition. In some of his recent works, Grzetic has freed himself somewhat and has permitted more radical contrasts to appear in his works. He has also loosened his strict adherence to natural laws. He now creates his own laws regarding the structure of his forms. As Milun Mitrovic noticed, "Grzetic's work has full mass and shows stylized, smooth form, which follows natural shapes but with a tendency toward reduction of detail and an emphasis of masses which are radically contrasted and organically together at the same time."3
Vladimir Komad makes portraits in polyester, wood, plaster, and bronze. His professional reputation has been earned not from the skillful modeling of physical properties, nor a concern with anatomical accuracy, but through the inner spiritual strength and the sensitive portrayal of highly complex characters which this young artist conveys. The Portrait of Mose Blackbourne (Fig. 40), with its iconic frontal immobility and pointed and indeterminate surface, imparts a strong emotional conviction and expressive spirituality comparable to that of Donatello's Habakkuk of 1430. The strait‑jacket rendering of the arms and torso condense these qualities.
Jovan Soldatovic also uses elements of a purely emotional vocabulary for expressing sentimentality, piety, and gaiety. His figures, whether tense or lyrical, exist within an expressive world of the dramas of everyday existence. His talent is also apparent in his skillful composition. In a congruency of form and subject matter, he uses the human figure as a vehicle for outlining the space which create a sense of lightness in his work.
After World War II, Soldatovic revealed himself as one of the few artists capable of resisting the pervasive influence of the Socialist Realist movement, by sculpting solely according to his own artistic impulses. In the 1960's he again was alone and free, indifferent to the prevalent passion for abstraction. Soldatovic often verbalizes that his professional dignity always comes before social obiigations.
However, he is willing and ready to take risks and sacrifice some of his creative rhythm when he realizes that in so doing he can affirm art and the humanization of man. To be true to art and to life, and the freedom of both, are his ideals.
Couple Sitting (Fig. 41) is a sentimental sculpture possessing life and dignity and symbolizing the values of mundane human existence. A sensitive proportioning of these rough, seemingly porous figures, establishes a dynamic interaction with the space that is being outlined and intersected by them. Similar to Giacometti, Soldatovic emphasizes the fragility of the human figure by attenuating it. Unlike Giacometti, Soldatovic's figures are not alone and lonely. They depend visually and psychologically on each other, as one figure bows its head into the triangular composition formed by the two and grasps the neck of the other, all gestures defining and elaborating this pyramidal form. The composition reinforces the impression of the skeletal, gaunt existence that the figures themselves convey.
A similar sentimental mood is to be found in the work of Stipe Sikirica. His themes stem from his memories of the activities of the peasants from his native Dalmatia. Gajdas (Fig. 42) is carried away by his tune and is oblivious to everything else. He is an unpretentious figure with no aspirations towards escaping his role in life. Yet, in his union with his music, he transcends his peasant existence and reaches a more ethereal realm.
Sikirica's interest in composition is also quite apparent, especially through his unique treatment of space. The musician's skinny legs and the legs of the bench he sits on, outline similar triangular spaces which give lightness to the lower part of the sculpture. The result is a disproportionally heavy upper part of the piece. Only briefly is this disturbing, however, because the weight is carefully balanced and rests securely on the ripply spatial triangles, visually and structurally a very stable arrangement. Sikirica's principle of repetition and even identity of form are seen in the unification of the chest with the bag‑portion of the instrument. Even the face resembles the bag; the diagonally placed mouthpiece is an extension of the nose; this diagonal form is repeated in the reed portion of the instrument and the legs of the figure as well as in the legs of‑the stool.
Although visually the sculpture may seem heavy, psychologically it appears weightless. Its flowing curves, rounded countours, smooth volume, and stretched surface all reinforce the impression that this is a hollow form inflated through high air pressure, which threatens to explode or to lift the sculpture off the ground. Despite the tension created by the sharp contrast between the lower and the upper parts of the sculpture, and by the pressure from within the bag, the viewer's overall feelings are of serenity and a joyful encounter with a pleasing sound.
A similar treatment of space, but with a reversed disposition of weight, is characteristic of the work by the Slovenian sculptor Janez Lenassi. His Fisherman (Fig. 43) deliberately evokes the fisherman's faith and struggle, as traditionally described in the folk songs of Istria. The sculpture has recognizable figurative elements which are pulled and stretched in an arc through space. This triple arc of torso and two arms reduces the weight of the figure to a bare minimum. The curved line of the left side of the body and arm directs one's attention to the heavy basket‑like form placed parallel to the floor. The bowed body attempting to lift the heavy basket is portrayed at the moment where it is uncertain whether it can continue to lift the burden or must give up in defeat.
Regardless of the intensity of the tension created by the swollen muscles struggling against the mass and weight of the basket, the sculpture acquires different expressive content when its sexual overtones are recognized. The fisherman's head becomes a phallic symbol and the horizontal mass is seen as approaching a penetration of the smooth female form. Viewed in this manner, the tension is much reduced, gince the movement of the figure is directed towards a union with what is otherwise seen as an obstacle to its progress.
In the sculpture of Branko Ruzic there is no tension between the figurative and the abstract because he abstracts his figures only to reveal or suggest one particular emotion.To convey his artistic message, Ruzic equally exploits his material, his subject matter, and the traditional human form which he modifies and reduces to its essential and simple rhythms. His sculpture never becomes a stereotyped rationalization of sculptural
form which can be used to regulate the world of vision.
His interest and his subject matter range over all areas of life and he selects those
aspects immanent in the material itself, that most vitally quicken his artistic interest. Sometimes this is a human face or body, sometimes a bird or animal, most often a group of people in various situations of life. In all these varied interests and varied subjects,
Ruzic's approach is fixed by the nature of reality, and by reality we here understand those general attitudes in which the individual can be recognized.4
The sculpture Alone (Fig. 44) symbolically manifests a highly emotionally charged concept. It is a synthesis of the abstract and the figurative. The largest element is a wall‑like rectangle which supports a figure seated on its rim. The bulk of the wall is emphasized and animated by the vertical striations gouged out of its surface. Ruzic's conceptual freedom is demonstrated by the contrast between the impassive, dominating wall and the subtle fragility of the figure. This small character's position on the top corner of the massive wall provides a mute testimony to its lack of connection to the rest of humanity. The figure is fixed in a stable position, but only in relation to the wall, and its despairing mien disallows any possibility of escaping its solitude. This human image, cmparable in its fragile vulnerability to Ben Shahn's scenes of human alienation, is not only immobilized by its precarious position on the wall but also by its own isolation. Ruzic's Carrying the Wounded (Fig. 45) is a more abstract portrayal of another facet of human pain. It is a visually moving work, yet it is composed of bare, essential elements which are devoid of a clearly recognizable narrative context. It may just as easily be seen in mechanical terms; a simple rectangular board is being lifted into a slight diagonality by a device which resembles a gigantic pair of pliers. The architectonic nature of the piece also suggests the ruins of a destroyed bridge. The focus of the work is the negative space at its center. By opening up his piece, Ruzic exposes parts of the inner surfaces and reveals the interlocking of two separate, yet related elements. Yet, like Lenassils Fisherman, there is no tangible center. There is only what the center generates: the two arches which meet in the strenuous attempt of one to move the other. The rough‑hewn surface and imperfections of the wood, the irregular forms, and the use of space convey the inherent frailties of man, yet the obdurate, weathered material expresses the persistent survival instinct.
Second Stone Age (Fig. 46) is a sculptural grouping whose rough‑hewn individual members are more compact, yet the total composition is more open, than the previous sculpture. The integration of figurative and architectonic elements here is more complete than in any other Ruzic work; he unifies by simplifying, reducing, and deforming them. This creates a sense of communication among the members. Aspects of Second Stone Age can be compared with some of Moore's Upright Motives, or the circular arrangement related to Brancusi's Table at Tirgu Jiu. There are strong suggestions of Christian symbolism, pagan ritual, and graveyard monuments. They even demonstrate relationships between contemporary landscapes and ancient settlements. In this work, as with many of his others, Ruzic "impresses order into the objective world by creating symbols, which have a deeply private significance, but which can be at the same time grasped in terms of a public iconography." 5
Ksenia Kantoci also creates rough‑hewn yet smoothed wooden forms arrived at after years of experimentation. She carves archetypal female figures which idealize the female's capacity for quiet endurance in the face of pain. Her feeling for simplicity dominates her work; maintaining almost the original contours of the block, she stops working on it just a moment before the human figure can be recognized in it. Two Figures (Fig. 47), shows Kantocils interest in the harmonious and romantic relationships among the human figure, architecture, and her medium. The presence of the original wooden block is strongly felt here, and perhaps dominates the figural element, but her forms succeed in softly asserting themselves from within the confines of the block. The two figures communicate with each other and the vaguely defined, umbilical form connecting them at the middle solidifies their figurative, as well as structural unions. The horizontal form at the top serves a slightly different function; it is visually essential in order to stop our vision from moving further vertically, and so that our eyes are shifted horizontally from one block to the other. The piece radiates stability; all views of it reconfirm its cohesion and self‑sufficiency. With its harmony between form and material, its ascending movement, and its primeval monumentality, this sculpture can be compared with the work of the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Guerrini.6
Petar Cerne combines wood and bronze to provoke a disturbing mixture of sensibilities in the viewer. The sharp‑edged Torso (Fig. 48) seems frozen in action and lacks spontaneity. The bronze vestment‑like form seems to suppress the figure's emotions and muffles the message being rhetorically delivered to its audience. Yet despite a partially objective treatment, the human overtones and the compassion for the human figure are evident. The sculpture suggests Cerne's distinctive ability to combine human and organic elements with rigid, lifeless ones, in order to portray the soul's struggle for recognition. This priest‑like figure reveals the austere beauty of a noble and serious human being. Refusing to be subdued, he vibrantly faces the world. In his challenging and victorious stance, he even resembles the figure of Romulus from The Rape of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin.
Marian Kockovic is another sculptor concerned with portraying noble appearances. However, his pieces are quiet and are not clearly defined, but instead seem restricted to a roughness more appropriate to the construction of models. This contrasts with his portraits, which are made with less indecision and more grace, animation, and naturalness.
Slavoljub Stankovic's Female Torso (Fig. 49) is an extreme, formal simplification of the reclining female form, having a universal, rather than a specific context. Its gentle concave curved form suggests an unending, curving lyricism that is contained, rather than interrupted, by the abrupt planes at either end where it has been cut off. The small protruding breasts and the two lines dividing the torso bi‑laterally create patterns of reflections of light and establish an easily recognized female iconography. The torso is geometric and organic at the same time. The hovering quality of the logically controlled forms in relation to the base, and the smoothly polished, refined surface relate to the work of the Rumanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi.
Abstraction of the figure takes a different direction by Vasil Vasilev. He is often concerned with vertical balance, and he substitutes the use of numerous forms carved in wood, his favorite material, for the simplicity seen in Stankovic. Beginning with a figurative concept, he continues carving until he has obliterated the familiar and has replaced it with abstract decoration. The deep narrow grooves cut into the solid mass often give his form a humorous effect. His Figure (Fig. 50) has its largest mass opened by those radiating lines which start at the center and move in all directions to the periphery of the piece. This provides a forceful tension within the form and creates the illusion that the openings are formed from a source of life behind the surface which causes the mass to expand and crack. The overall naturalistic abstraction of the piece makes it possible to see a flower, perhaps a rose, in this figure, suggestive of the "elan vital" shared by all of nature's creations. His forms also bear a similarity to those reduced elements found in African sculptures which influenced Brancusi in his wooden sculptures like The Prodigal Son or Adam and Eve.
In another work (Fig. 51), which shares some of the same elements, Vasilev adds paint to create an entirely different effect. By polychroming the wood, he manipulates space by color as well as mass, and creates spatial progressions in depth. (The colored shapes appear to be closer to or further from the viewer's eyes than they actually are, depending on their colors.) This emphasizes Vasilev's concern with boldly presenting his surfaces, while only hinting mysteriously at what lies behind them.
Polychromy has also been successfully pursued by Vasko Lipovic. His works achieve a cold impersonality and immobility, as well as a bizarre humor and imaginative presentation. They are essentially geometric structures with fundamental figurative references. The stress is upon visual unity, symmetrical arrangements, and a rhythm defined through the assembling of his parts.
His Queen (Fig. 52) is a female figure, remote from life but with parts carefully calculated and proportioned so that she sits logically on her throne as a humorous version of the concentration on geometric form found in the Egyptian and Sumerian cultures and the Cubist art movement. Because of the character and the arrangement of the parts, one recognizes a fetish construction whose reduced human features seem to have originated on the production line of a toy factory. These reductive features recall Brancusi's Blond Negress whose head is articulated by a stylized top‑knot and lips. Except for the nose, the queen is faceless, and like a wooden doll, she is frozen on her throne, incapable of any function. Like a chess piece, she waits for the observer to give her meaning. Her imposing regality is reduced to absurdity as are the claims to worship and power of her role. Although she may belong to the forgotten royalty of Yugoslavia's past, she still has an undeniable contemporary significance. The apple, often a symbol in myth and fairy tale, provides her with a universal attribute, but the artist offers so many possibilities as to interpretation that the viewer is left with more questions than answers.
Ante Jakic uses similarly simplified cylindrical parts to assemble his strikingly bizarre composition (Fig. 53). There is a harmonious repetition in these phallic parts which are suspended in space barely touching each other. This precarious relationship creates a dynamic thrust and a "sculptural animation." The seven smaller elements at the top of the sculpture float unpredictably in space, violating the law of gravity, but instead of tension, their irrational positioning creates humor. The adroit animation is further enhanced by the metaphorically stylized gestures. The sculpturally pure form, composed of primary elements, invites the imagination to participate in the performance of a clown knowledgeable in the ways of the world: "Jakic is not creating toys, but spiritual, sculptural cheerfulness, sophisticated enough to survive." 7
Another sculptor who subtly injects humor into his work is Dusan Gakovic. His plastic form is more static and more figurative than that of Jakic. He combines unrelated figures and objects in almost surreal tableau defying rational explication.‑ Diomedes with His Copilot (Fig. 54) is a composition containing a homemade looking machine on wheels driven by two human figures. The vehicle, with its Rube Goldberg type construction, looks ineffective at best, and its pilots seem more inspired with ideals of Greek or perhaps Quixotic glory, than with their unlikely anachronistic mode of transportation. Gakovic's purpose is not to give the illusion of movement, but, as the title suggests, to take the viewer's imagination back through history and present him with a modern perspective on the story of Diomedes and Odysseus bringing Philoctetes to Troy. The glass box encapsulates the moment and reinforces the notion of the artist's recreation reality. The heroes, in their isolated, artificial existence, become as contemporary as one allows them to be. The foremost figure nonchalantly shoots a nonexistent rifle, while his companion guides their unwieldy chariot. The classical handling of these huge Greek heroes contrasts strongly with their unlikely battle transport, and suggests a spoof on both ancient and modern attitudes towards war.
A more abstracted type of surrealism can be seen in the works of Nebojsa Mitric. For Mitric, figurative reality is replaced by visual forms that are influenced by the irrational and the spiritual aspects of his artistic inner reality. Imagination, rather than memory, is the basis for his expression. Poet (Fig. 55) is a surreal creature with humanoid, bird‑like, and machine‑like elements which meld together into a fantastic being. Fantasy dominates reality and the spiritual dominates the physical because the sculptor's purpose is to articulate the dimensions of the mystery of poetic inspiration. However, the sculpture should not be as the rational reflection of a poetic vision, but rather as an effort to reveal the poetic vision directly through the medium of plastic art. The visual encounter here helps us to achieve contact on both a psychological and spiritual level. Although physically very imposing in its massiveness and frontality, the poet's spiritual strength, suggested by the agitated drapery and flanking wing‑like forms, makes him light and capable of flying. He is seated, and from his vantage point he contemplates his own mystery with a serenity and dignity, as well as with a hint of obsession. He belongs to the world of the spirit rather than of the flesh.
While Poet may belonq to the heavens, the works of Matia Vukovic are rooted deeply in the problems of human life. Vukovic spent two and a half decades of his creative life in a dispute against the institutionalization of art, and the poor criticism received by Yugoslav sculpture. Solitary in his honest appeal, he courageously declared war on artistic conventions in search of artistic truths. He held the conviction that personal exploration in solitude is just and moral, while sheeplike following of mundane, fashionable artistic trends is disgraceful.
His sculpture entitled Wounded (Fig. 56) does not fit into any easily definable category, but rather serves to communicate the sculptor's deepest emotions through the use of a barely discernible figuration. The convex form of the piece swings around that of the concave, which is modeled deeply enough to reveal the source of expression. The small forms are emerging from the concavity as if they had been squeezed out by the flow of movement. The concave is open just enough to reveal the form moving within it in a kind of three‑dimensional concentricity. The straining of the mass seems to turn the sculpture inside out figuratively and literally. Vukovic penetratingly explores the dramatic possibilities offered by collapsed and destroyed human forms. In his desperation to hold himself upwards, the figure in Wounded is acting out the last minutes of his human drama, knowing he cannot avoid the end, but struggling to find meaning before the final curtain falls.
Slavoljub Radojcic belongs to a younger generation and uniquely interprets the human figure through extreme distortions of the features. He makes statements about the general condition of man by exploring the disabled members of the human population: the crippled, the retarded, the insane, and the other variously handicapped people who can provoke depression in those individuals considered normal. His Assassin (Fig. 57) is a peculiar creature modeled disproportionately with a round muscled body and head, and skinny legs perched on the upper edge of an upright square plaque. The disturbed feeling emanating from this figure derives not only from the disproportion and distortion of the form, but also from the awkward posture, especially the lopsided, tilted head which appears psychologically removed from the body. There is a great deal of confusion generated by the mysterious ease with which the body overcomes the gravitational pull and seems to float above the square. Despite its feat, the Assassin does not command respect, but conversely seems imbalanced, both literally and figuratively.
The positioning of the figure becomes even more disturbing when one tries to find a logical explanation for it. He seems to have appeared accidentally and is oblivious to his condition or purpose. This jars the Western premise of cause and effect which assumes rational relations. Radojcic presents to the viewer the idea that the problem of this deformed creature is really the problem that each individual faces in interpreting and accepting the more deviant aspects of society and himself.
Afran Hozic has been experimenting with psychological portraits since 1964 and has perfected them to the point where they reveal the maximum truths about the imperfections of human nature. Fans (Fig. 58) is a frontal and symmetrical welded bronze sculpture with two figures attached to the upper, outer corners of the central two figures. Each figure is composed of a square for a body from whose corners flailing arms and legs project. The figures are arranged within a rectangle, but they move freely and do not seem confined by it, each in his own shallow plane. All four are very similar in their physical properties, gestures, and expressions. The two central figures are secured to their base, while the two peripheral ones have been captured at a moment of equilibrium between descending and ascending. Their bodies are rectangular pillows, softened by Hozic's modeling process. Against the surface of these bodies he has pressed antique seals, medals, coins, and the ends of various tools which results in an animated, light‑catching irregular surface.
By this unflattering, yet whimsical portrayal of enraptured fans at a sporting event, Hozic mocks the mindless mass rituals of jumping and shouting. There is also the suggestion, hinted at by the clenched fists, that ignorance and frenzied conformity can be dangerous. Here, however, the vertical movement and rigid forms of the figures implies that they are incapable of moving out from their axes and hence innocuous. The polygon which serves as the common base for their clamorous performance is obviously too small to accommodate all of them. Thus, the two central figures have anchored themselves to the base, while the two peripheral ones are floating in space. Intensity of feeling, rhythmical movement, and violence unify these figures. The unity here is only superficial, however, since their movements do not intersect with one another; psychologically the figures remain alone in expressing their frantic emotions and are powerless as well to influence the outcome of the event.
Drago Trsar is a socially oriented sculptor who further depersonalizes the individual members of society and fuses them into sculpture embodying the notion of human masses. His principle concern is with crowds of human beings melted into single compositions; his subjects include demonstrators, fugitives, and other action‑oriented groups. Even though the individuals lose their discrete identities, the crowds attain their own: "Trsar, with whom the motive is recurrent, has . . . integrated his crowd as a 'sign,' giving it a collective individuality." 8 The visual realization of his theme stresses the group as an indissoluble mass, like a gestalt which is not just the sum of anonymous parts, but a totality having a new and different meaning which involves the strength, endurance, and power of individuals fused into a group. It also advocates the sacrifice of certain aspects of individuality to promote the continued existence of the human race.
Trsar's Tree of Life (Fig. 59) is modeled out of horizontal elements and vertical elements which intersect it. Although massive, it is freed from the natural law of gravity since its weight is concentrated on a central horizontal axis elevated above the base. The sculpture ‑‑ the group of figures ‑‑ seems to stand on its own collective feet. Cohesion here is maximal; the individual forms are completely fused into a new unity; this generates a spirit and vitality which raises this physical object beyond its earthbound modeled form.
Between Man and God (Fig. 60) is a more compact composition whose mass is closer to the ground. This vise‑like, horse‑shoe form is visually held in place by the jagged column of air almost bisecting it. The absence of horizontals provides an upward thrust, despite the fact that weight is concentrated in the lower part of the sculpture. There are no separable sculptural elements, but the multiple welded‑together fragments constituting the form suggest the complicated facets of human existence. They also evoke man's physical condition of being trapped by the earth, since they can be seen to correspond to the crystals and stalactites formed inside the caves of Postojna near Trsar's hometown. The journey from within the cave to the light and freedom outside provides the focus for the piece as if the bellows‑like form were expelling the space outward and upward.
Stojan Batic is also preoccupied with groups of people, but rather than man in general, he concentrates on a particular group of people: miners. These men working in dismal subterranean corridors, the. underground heroes squeezed together with little space and little air to breathe, the helpless static bodies and minds, and the dark and silent mines themselves, are the elements from which Batic draws his inspiration. Having been a miner himself, Batic's memories of the dank, shadowy mining pits are anything but idyllic. He knows the essential nature of the profession with its dark and sometimes deadly setting, and his sculpture reveals his identification with the miners.
His sculpture In the Pit (Fig. 61) looks as if it is in the process of changing from a group of human figures into a solid block of stone rather than vice versa. The density of this mass of people approaches the actual density of the stone itself, as each individual resigns himself to his death‑like metamorphosis. Not only the human form here is being destroyed, but the human will itself is also being purged. The entire group assumes not a millimeter of movement. In their rigidity the figures all facing inward resemble mummies or sardines being compressed and held tightly in a transparent tin can. This mute and stationary drama of the loss of human dignity is the antithesis of Trsar's energetic human masses. Unlike Trsar's people, Batic's miners are battered and worn, and the group they form is a faceless monster which drains them even of hope.
Batic takes not only thematic inspiration from the mine, but also uses the actual material of the mine to carve some of his works. He uses lignite as his sculptural medium, and often combines it with other minerals. Man‑Mine (Fig. 62) is carved in and assembled out of minerals. It is abstract and simplified, but the combination of materials hint at mystery through their different densities, colors, and surface textures. The human body is easily recognized here, but because of Batic's fervent commitment to his subject, there is a strong sense that this is a portrayal of the miners being compressed behind dark walls. The dowels with which he elevates his composition from its base can be seen as human legs, as once again he fuses the identities of the organic and the inorganic.
During the early 1960's, Yugoslav sculptors tackled new materials and new technological processes. Undoubtedly, their prototypes were the European avant‑garde artists from the 1930's and the younger post‑War European and American aenerations. The medium which most excited the interest of the Yugoslav sculptors was steel. The unique characteristics of this material, which allowed it to be softened or hardened, melted, cut by flame, and drawn out into wire, opened new possibilities for sculptural expansion. The sculptors who first realized the adaptability of steel for general sculptural use were Boljka, Dzamonja, Luketic, Petrovic, and Tihec.
Janez Boljka found steel very docile and was able to subordinate it to all of his artistic conceptions, including the form of the human figure. He uses functional steel objects, often rifles and other arms, to build his abstract figures. His approach and his process are simple, yet through his masterful work he transforms symbols of violence into components of human relations.
In his Meeting (Fig. 63) he places two figures in the middle of a forest of vertically‑arranged tubes intersected by short horizontal elements and topped with two dense crowns made of the same but shorter elements. In spite of their rigidity, the figures are choking within their structure. One imagines that the couple has attended a church ceremony during which, for some mysterious reason, the splendid Gothic cathedral began shrinking to miniature size. This shrinkage of the attenuated, spiky structure threatens to continue to the point where the figures will be penetrated and destroyed by the sharp elements.
Scene from Ribnica (Fig. 64) is more geometric, symmetrical, and reductive in its design than Meeting. Boljka has allowed the material and the treatment of the surface of fetish‑like figure to command the primary interest of the piece. The flat surface of the rigid, vertical steel figure, altered through the addition of decorative elements resemble the richly decorated costumes from Slovenia.
Ribnican (Fig. 65) reflects a common theme in Boljka's work, and derives its name from the town of Ribnican, where the inhabitants are mostly peddlers. Boljka portrays a peddler as he carries a heavy load of goods from one place to another. The staggering bulk and weight of the goods seem overpowering, yet the figure manages to support its burdens. The figure and its cargo, however, merge to the extent that neither element retains its original identity. Only the legs of the peddler are visible, and the rest of the anonymous figure is swallowed by the merchandise. The aggressive relationship of the sculpture with the space also demands consideration. The periphery of the figure is protected by hundreds of uneven, sharp parallel rods which seem to poke and irritate the surrounding space. This mass assumes life, and bristles with pugnacious resistance against any potential obstacle on its path. Yet, it also reveals the bitterness and irony in the life of the peddler who is forced to depend for his livelihood on that which burdens and dehumanizes him.
The works of Zoran Petrovic also illuminate the relationship of man to his own inanimate creations. Starting as a painter, Petrovic then switched to sculpture, and finally united both media into one art. This integrative principle extends to his forms themselves, which unify the biomorphic and the technological. Petrovic is fascinated by the "biological machine," mechanical apparatus whose parts have biological analcaues. He has always been interested in archaic machinery which now has achieved historical value and can be found in museums. His primary interest in such mechanism is in those whose working parts resemble bird's claws or beaks, for example, cranes whose lifting devices are like magnified versions of the human arm or the crab's claw.
Petrovic makes use of mechanical elements in the Big Head with Small Decoration and Small Figure with Big Head (Fig. 66), although here is more concerned with stability and the relationship between the two major parts of the piece than with its machine‑like movements. A two‑piece composition, this work from one perspective would appear to depict two surrealistic flowers sharing the same base but quite independent of one another. Upon closer examination, the organic and mechanical elements resolve themselves into anthropomorphic forms. Petrovic helps define his forms with negative space. The figures then draw their harmony through the union of space and material. The composition is open and light and the actual form seems to exist only to establish a reference point for the imaginary form of the space. Although human references here are limited and indicated primarily through axiality, feeling content is conveyed through the internal movement of the piece.
In another piece entitled Nobleman with Dull Teeth (Fig. 67), Petrovic uses original and found elements to parody his subject. Decayed humanity can be as ugly as decomposed machinery, and Petrovic uses corroded pieces of scrap metal in this piece to equate both kinds of deterioration. There is also a humorous element to this sculpture. The observer recognizes a monstrous but not dangerous being in the faceless visored form who puts up a defiant front while crumbling, literally and figuratively, from within. The relationship of the figure tothe space expresses aggression, however, since the elements project into space, while the space itself penetrates and chews the interior of the piece.
Slavko Tihec is a sculptor who takes insignificant metal rods and transforms them into dynamic, and often organic, forms. Tihec:,has an excellent knowledge of metal‑working processes which enables him to compose his abstractions through methods paralleling those of nature. In addition to purely aesthetic concerns, he also stresses the fantastic aspects of art. His Two‑Leaf Form (Fig. 68) is welded out of a multitude of delicate aluminum rods arranged in a double fan‑like plane and supported by a smaller vertical element. Despite its cold medium, it has strong associations with nature: it seems to be half human and half butterfly. The radiating, vein‑like rods also have botanic overtones and seem to suggest that all life has a common center from which all emanates.
A similar ambiguity surrounds his Two Eye Form (Fig. 69) which recalls the surrealistic anthropoid figures of Max Ernst and Juan Miro. The sculpture shows Tihec's preoccupations with symmetry, rhythm, grace, and vitality. It is interesting to notice that he grants bilateral symmetry to the fan‑like form atop the vertical support, and then rescinds it by leaving one eye concave and the other convex. These spheroid forms suggest a spider which has woven its web for capturing insects about him and sits~ in the sanctuary of the web's center ready to fold it shut to protect itself in case of danger.
The wide range of styles and approaches included within this category illustrates the great strides made by Yugoslav sculptors in their pursuit of free expression involving the most tradition‑bound of all sculptural motifs, the human figure. Although some of the works presented here do not on first impression suggest a relationship to the human figure, in context with other works by the same artist, they can be seen as part of a progression from the representational to the abstract and experimental. These artists reveal their abilities to move further and further away from their models while maintaining the original thematic and emotional connections. In the zoomorphic and biomorphic forms to be considered in the next two sections, this movement towards abstraction progresses even further.
l.Konstantin Bazarov, "Contemporary Yugoslav Sculpture," Arts Review 9,(1970): 280.
2.Darko Schneider, Kosta Anaeli Radovani (Zagreb: Galerija Moderne Umjetnosti, 1973), p. 13.
3.Milun Mitrovic, Ante Grzetic (Titograd: Moderna Galerija, 1975), pp. 2‑3.
4.Mladenka Solman, Branko Ruzic (Zagreb: Galerija Moderne Umetnosti, 1972), p. 9.
5.Kenneth.Coutts‑Smith, "Branko Ruzic," Art and Artists 4:8 (November 1969): 14.
6.Eduard Trier, Form and Space (New York: Praeger, 1968), p. 171.
7.Vlado Buzancic, Ante Jakic (Skopje: Centar za Kulturu, 19‑75), p. 3.
8.Trier, Form and Space, p. 149.