The Exquisite Corpse Drinks the New Wine

15 June – 30 July 2017

The Great Journey - exhibition view(2)

Artists: Istvan Betuker, Radu Băieș, Norbert Filep, Pavel Grosu, Lucian Popăilă, Marcel Rusu, Ioan Sbârciu, Alexandra Șerban

Curated by: Maria Rus Bojan

Location: Sector 1 Gallery

The Exquisite Corpse Drinks the New Wine is the first exhibition of the Sector 1 gallery and features the works of eight artists that not only have in common their collaboration with the gallery, but are also more significantly connected, aesthetically and conceptually. Radu Baies, Istvan Betuker, Norbert Filep, Pavel Grosu, Lucian Popaila, Marcel Rusu, Alexandra Serban and Ioan Sbarciu are all artists based in Cluj -the Central European city that has lately become, in a somewhat spectacular manner, a hotspot on the map of the international art world- who have decidedly chosen painting as their main medium of artistic expression. Though they belong to different generations (the majority of them being, nevertheless, remarkable, emerging artists) and their approaches to the medium are poignantly individualized and particular, they all share a steady faith in the contemporary relevance, value, in the expressive and semantic potential of painting, as well an unreserved appreciation and striving for technical mastery and visual beauty.
The title of the show, which paraphrases a famous Surrealist collective action and working manner, also constitutes a metaphorical, oblique, yet adequate characterization of the status of contemporary painting. The historically charged practice of painting, essentially and constantly defined by its transfigurative power has been repeatedly and sometimes concomitantly described, during the last century, both as an evanescing relic of the European artistic tradition and as a surprisingly powerful artistic tool, which retains relevance and charm even under the circumstances of our recent, (post)modern society. Thus, the death of painting and its triumph have alternatively been proclaimed, as artists continued to forge a fascinating, problematic, diverse and intricate history of contemporary painting, as an essential component of the contemporary cultural production.

In this context, the visual vitality and conceptual strength of the art displayed in The Exquisite Corpse Drinks the New Wine largely come from the artists’ belief that painting remains, in the contemporary world, a versatile and valuable expressive means for describing and symbolically making sense of external reality, as well as for exploring personal anguishes, for giving shape to individual reveries and for embodying feelings and ideas. For them, this traditional medium is as valuable as ever in its long and respectable history, its unique sensuousness and its unmistakable ability to transfigure reality being core qualities that never went out of fashion and that are pervading various stylistic approaches. In the same time, the nonchalant, savoury and visually arresting expressions of this credo that can be discovered in the show at Sector 1 gallery excellently epitomize the exquisite, aesthetic and conceptual quality that has become associated with the artistic production of many contemporary painters from Cluj, which often, yet with various meanings and in different configurations are considered to have generated a specific cultural phenomenon of significant prominence in the international art world, usually labelled as the Cluj School. Though the young artists in the exhibition belong to slightly younger generation than the few ones forming the established core of the Cluj School (with whom, however, Ioan Sbârciu entertained a complex formative relationship), they nevertheless display the same conceptual seriousness and technical prowess, matched by specific freshness and impetuousness, which elevate their painting to an impressive level of artistic exquisiteness.

Nevertheless, the artists in the The Exquisite Corpse Drinks the New Wine show are far from forming a homogeneous group, as each possesses a distinct artistic personality, the differences in tone and mode of approaching various topics and painterly styles being definitely more interesting and relevant than the general conception of art that they share. Their individual attitudes, stylistic interests and semantic embodiments encompass a broad spectrum, from gestural exuberance to melancholic meditation, from complexity of compositions to deceptive simplicity of subject matter, from Baroque, delightful bravadoes to Romanticist hybris to postmodern, unexpected conflations of styles and types of images, from the search for an intellectually appealing, yet sensorily available beauty to the deployment of artistic image as vehicle for and expression of spiritual quests.

Installation views

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