Plan B

Horia Damian

26 Apr - 15 Jun 2019

Exhibition view
26 April – 15 June 2019

Galeria Plan B is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition of Horia Damian on Friday, the 26th of April, to coincide with Berlin Gallery Weekend.

The artist’s second exhibition at Plan B Berlin includes a wide and essential selection of drawings, paintings and sculptures from different stages of his practice between the 1950s and the 2000s.

From the 1970s Damian created monumental, symbolic sculptures giving them a metaphysical perspective that would distinguish them from the contemporary works of American Minimal Art. In 1975, he constructed The Hill for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Thomas Messer, the director of the Guggenheim Museum at that time, writes about Damian‘s works: ‘’in all of these, Damian aims for essentially the same results and all his concepts therefore have parallel meaning within his total oeuvre. Damian‘s art, based upon impeccable craftsmanship and an obsessive preoccupation with materials, cannot be faulted for lacking concreteness. But despite the sparseness and reductiveness of Damian‘s structures, minimal and formalistic interpretations do not suffice in this case. For his explicit references are to a celestial rather than a terrestrial space, to an ideal rather than a palpable world order, and to sacral rather than temporal realities.’’

How could the work of an artist who studied with Fernand Léger and André Lhote could be so influenced by architecture? One meeting was certainly decisive, with neoplasticist artist August Herbin who stated in 1918 that: “Our art can only be monumental”. Monumentality was then supposed to bring back together art and the people in a communist conception of society; the monument allowing for an overview of the arts. It was a new life project in itself. In the post-Second World War context, many artists like Herbin, Vasarely, Soto or Agam shared the same ambition: that society should be transformed by art. Building a new world meant to integrate visual arts in architecture. This is how Horia Damian’s work fell within the third dimension, or as he explained it, into the conceptual idea of volume. His paintings and drawings only exist for one simple reason: many of his inventions could not be made in the physical space. He was looking for alternative solutions and in the end; the materials did not matter much. Actually Damian declared that he only poetically fixed and suggested a spatial dimension. Nevertheless, each painting and drawing has its own autonomy and exists beyond a perfect initial idea, becoming states and pieces of a sequence

Something is quite striking in Damian’s works: the atemporality of shapes. Far from being nostalgic of archaism, Damian is interested in the essential and efficient shape that he finds in the ziggurat, the mastaba, the stepped pyramid and the tumulus. Damian had a very neoplastic vision of shapes – this movement was back in fashion after 1945 –, looking for a kind of mystical harmony in the appearance of forms. If Piet Mondrian’s and Theo Van Doesburg’s neoplasticism was produced in reaction to the First World War, it can easily be said that a whole generation of artists was also imagining new utopias, after the Second World War, where the artist should embody a perfect spirituality. Damian was one of these artists committed to reinvent art and its relation to the audience. Today it is important to put his work – often referred to in many writings as “visionary architecture” – in a non-prophetic spectrum. It is definitely time to kill the figure of the genius, because in a way we are all “geniuses”. His works are active in a world of sensation and in the search of an ideal. A good example is his “San Francisco project”, made in 1978. In his statement, Damian explains that it is a “spatial alchemy, a transformation of the way to feel and watch that is related to a deeper, more mysterious part of his being”. The project, halfway between visual art and architecture, calls to atheist mysticism: Damian would like to catch the sun indefinitely. The shape he created for this occasion is symptomatic of his work: both pure and in a “static movement”, activated by the presence and participation of the audience. Actually, the work exists in the permanent shifts of light caught by the human eye. The language he used is therefore close to the relational aesthetics of the 90’s.

To take a fresh look at Damian’s work in 2019 allows the understanding or at least analysis of artistic researches started about thirty years ago. It was then an attempt to define the vast notion of relation, specifically human relations - thoughts that had already been part of Damian’s work many years before.

The exhibition text was written by Loïc Le Gall, assistant curator at Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Horia Damian (1922-2012) born in Bucharest, Romania. Lived and worked in Paris, France from 1946.
Selected exhibitions include: Plan B, Berlin (2014); The National Museum of Art, Bucharest (2009); Musée
Fabre, Montpellier (2007); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2002; 1980); The Venice Biennale (1993; 1942);
Documenta IX, Kassel (1992); Grand Palais, Paris (1983); The Guggenheim Museum, New York (1976);
Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro (1975); Neue Galerie, Aachen (1974); Musee d‘Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1972); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1962); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1962); Bridgestone Museum, Tokyo (1957); Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (1957).

Tags: Theo van Doesburg, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian