THE WANDERERS | Contemporary Painting from Cluj

Selected works of: Marius Bercea, Alin Bozbiciu, Cornel Brudascu, Oana Farcas, Robert Fekete, Aurelian Pirosca, Victor Racatau, Ioan Sbarciu, Sergiu Toma
Curator: Maria Rus Bojan
Exhibition dates: 11 January – 19 February 2016
Venue: Richard Taittinger Gallery, NY

The Richard Taittinger Gallery is proud to present The Wanderers, one of the first attempts in the United States to examine the context behind the emergence of the Cluj School, a phenomenon of the last decade related to several generation of artists that graduated the painting department from the Art University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Moving beyond the restrictive concept of a school of painting, the present exhibition aims to create a context for a better, more inclusive, understanding of the core of the phenomenon, presenting nine artists of different generations, who contributed essentially to this outstanding development. Beyond the label attributed by the international media, the Cluj School is primarily an artistic phenomenon rooted in the rich historical tradition of Romanian figurative painting with a complex background, which is still to be explored.

Emphasising the crucial role played by the two masters of the Cluj art scene, Cornel Brudascu (1937) and Ioan Sbarciu (1948) – the mentors and creators of the main artistic directions that influenced the development of the following generations of artists – this exhibition offers a unique perspective on the unexplored formative context, which generated this phenomenon with internationally recognized names such as Adrian Ghenie and Victor Man.

Conceived as a trans-generational dialogue, this presentation aims to underline the continuity of a certain tradition of figurative painting without resorting to the idea of a school of painting. Alongside the two masters Cornel Brudascu and Ioan Sbarciu, the show features also mid-career painters like Victor Racatau and Aurelian Pirosca, internationally acclaimed artists such as Marius Bercea, as well as the representatives of the youngest generation: Oana Farcas, Alin Bozbiciu, Robert Fekete, and Sergiu Toma. By bringing together these generations of artists with different positions, conceptual principles, and pictorial approaches, this show proposes a deconstruction of the very notion of the school, while thematising it as a multifaceted and interrelated phenomenon.

What all these artists share is not only a specific national or local identity, but rather a common feeling of longing, a nostalgia for the past as well as focusing on expressing the anxiety of a precarious present. However, despite their different life experiences under communism and during the dramatic changes that followed in the long years of transition, these artists surpassed the trauma of history by embracing a new paradigm that combined the conceptual approach of the Western art with the historical tradition of figurative painting. The success of this phenomenon lies in a reflexive attitude that involves not only a filtering of past ruptures between history and time, presence and memory, but also a process of transfiguration that aims at self-rediscovery.

The romantic metaphor of The Wanderer seems to be the most appropriate for a definition of the common trait that pervades the selection of works included in this exhibition. First, because it points towards a mode of self-discovery as an opening to the world that entails a reconfiguration of place and time. Secondly, it revisits the lyrical features of the Romanian painting tradition by infusing conceptual positions that are both figurative and abstract, realist and magic, nostalgic and critical. Finally, the paintings gathered in this exhibition shows us a multiplicity of experiences that turns us all into wanderers of each individual artistic universe.