Showcasing some of the most important and emblematic works of the artist’s opus, including sculptures, installations, drawings, paintings, textual works and photo-montages, the exhibition highlights the plurality of Kožarić’s creative approach and provides an overview of his artistic practice. The curatorial line of the exhibition is to show that the starting point of every Kožarić’s work lies in an earlier one; rather than serving his artistic past, he is thus continually dealing with it.
Kožarić is one of the most significant Croatian artists of the second half of the 20th century. His oeuvre is diverse and varied, and therefore it is impossible to experience his work in a linear thread. Very early on he became aware of the limitations imposed on the art world by the division of figurative and abstract aesthetics, but sustaining his gaze in the face of so many countervailing currents, he has maintained his interpretative freedom. Despite the frequent changes in Kožarić’s opus, his work has always been recognizable by his specific imprint. For over 60 years Kožarić’s work has been defined by the artist’s creative flexibility, conceptual refinement, lightness of execution in the given material, sophisticated visual rhetoric, and play.
Born in 1921, he studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb after World War II. At the beginning of his career, he focused on representing the human figure and other recognizable forms with a certain degree of interpretative freedom and with elements of abstraction. In 1959/60 he spent six months in Paris where he created his seminal work Inner Eyes, seeking to grasp something invisible. During his stay in Paris he familiarized himself with the limitations set by the art market in expecting the artist to repeat his already recognizable style. This was exactly the opposite of what Kožarić aspired towards artistically: he sought a continual renewal and development preserving the inherent processual nature of his practice. On his return to Zagreb it was therefore sensible to approach the Gorgona group, which did not accept any restrictions on artistic freedom of expression and was much more unrestrained in thought than the New Tendencies that dominated the Zagreb art scene of the 60s. In the following years he was actively involved with the group artistic endeavors and in his personal work, similarly as his colleagues from the Gorgona group, aspired to the spirit of anti-art, absurdity, irony, artistic detachment and Zen contemplation. In 1960 he began to work on the series Shapes of Space and sought out the interplay between presence and absence, carefully thinking through relationships between artwork and its perceiver. In Shapes of Space all the tenets of Kožarić’s poetics converge, such as the search for the infinite emptiness beyond matter and the essential relationship between form, light and space. The “negative space” or “negative void” has no real substance, but nevertheless creates the sculptural form.