Klaudio Štefančić

Rhetoric of Modernism

K 15Concepts in New Croatian Art, Art magazin Kontura, 2007., str 126.-139. (Edited by Krešimir Purgar)


In his endeavour to analyse and set a proper evaluation on post-war American art, Clement Greenberg urged an extremely precise definition of modern art.

He proposed an analysis that by reductive logic would define every individual art medium and thus reduce it to units further indivisible. In his analysis, painting had a privileged position, and it was to this medium that he devoted the greatest number of his critical texts. What made painting painting, said Greenberg, and the picture a picture, were two phenomena: the two-dimensional surface and the frame (Greenberg, 1997). Irrespective of whether it unfolds in the area of painting or that of sculpture, or indeed spatial installation, the work of Viktor Popović can be interpreted in the context of the American theory of high artistic Modernism, of which Greenberg is the salient representative.

Popović is a postmodern artist who, liberated from the ideological burdens of High Modernism, nevertheless works with its signs, codes and procedures. On the one hand, in a Derridean sense (Derrida, 2001) and on the other in the sense of the Foucault conceptions of post-modernism, he deconstructs or perhaps rather archives the modernist art tradition marked by the conception of formalism (Foucault, 2003). Formalist aesthetics is the dominant practice of the 20th century, in the sense in which varied art practices (painting, sculpture, music, theatre, film and so on) turn in upon themselves in the effort, at the zenith of the modern social project, to become aware of the patterns and borders of their own language: the language that makes them specific and independent as against other social practices. It is actually the American art criticism of Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Michael Fried and others, on the basis of the whole post-war American art, that has not only determined the principles of formalist aesthetics, but also retrospectively interpreted the history of modernist art. From this point of view, the work of Viktor Popović not only quotes and thus re-topicalizes the principles of formalist aesthetics, making use of its typical topoi (in painting putting forward the problem of the relations of surface and presentation, problems of gesture and expression, problems of picture format, or the limits of presentation), but also deconstructs them, revealing the contradictions, arbitrariness and incoherence of the formalist conception of art. Thus, for example, in the framework of a single piece he will show diverse, prohibited, mutually opposed methods of work. In the area of sculpture, he puts forward the irresolvable ambivalences and aporias of sculptural formalism of High Modernism: the relation of surface, exterior and interior (volume) of sculpture, the problem of the materiality of sculpture, the relation between sculpture and observer and so on. In the sense of the Foucault conception of post-modernism, it ought to be pointed out that Popović works not only with formalist methods of the production of art, but also with cultural uses and abuses and interpretations and reinterpretations of modernist art; not just with texts about art, but also with its discourses. He is a kind of “archivist in disorderly and chaotic archives... in which art (painting, sculpture and so on) is not viewed as a continued development (progress, advance, perfection through self-criticism)... but rather as a multitude of discontinuities” (Šuvaković, 2001: 156).

In the area of painting, sculpture and spatial installations, Popović also applies the results of the Minimalist, post-Minimalist and Conceptualist criticism of formalistic aesthetics put forward in the works of Greenberg, Rosenberg and Fried. Like a typical nomad he occupies diverse and contradictory discursive areas. Making use of all the advantages of post-modernist artistic pluralism he defines his own art practice in an entirely intertextual way.


Rhetoric of Painting


One of the specific features of Croatian modern art as against the Central and Eastern European contexts (art from behind the Iron Curtain) is a high degree of modernist art culture, which it achieved in the post-war period (from 1950 to the beginning of the eighties). The culture of post-war high modernism in Croatia was determined at a number of levels. There was the working of Exat 51, the establishment of radical and also moderate variants of Informel, the Abstract Expressionism of Edo Murtić and Ivo Kalina, the work of the Applied Arts Faculty in Zagreb, international exhibitions and symposia organised by the New Tendencies movement, the activity of the Gorgona group, the work of the Zagreb School of Animated Fi 1m, the activity of the Music Biennial, the appearance of conceptualist trends in the practices of Goran Trbuljak and Braco Dimitrijević, the work of artists representing the New Artistic Practice (Sanja Iveković, Dalibor Martinis, Goran Petercol, members of the Group of Six and others), the work of the City of Zagreb Galleries and the work of the art critics gathered around this gallery (Radoslav Putar, Božo Beck, Dimitije “Mangelos” Bašičević, Matko Meštrović, Boris Kelemen and some others). The list goes on. At the very beginning of his exhibition work, Popović started working with the inheritance of domestic and international painting of modernism. The pictures put on show in 1998 in the Galić Salon in Split re-topicalize the radical line of Croatian Art Informel painting, as well as the discourse with which it is interpreted (Denegri, 2004). Popović showed paintings the surface of which was covered evenly, edge to edge with an almost monotonous impasto, vertical and monochrome applications of ochre mixed with beeswax. The surface of the painting was the surface of the coated wooden support; it showed nothing save itself. The thick impasto traces of the coating of the surface, with their materiality, on the one hand indicate the concrete physical phenomenality of the rectangle of the easel painting, and on the other the paintings of Ivo Gatlin (for example, Four Verticals, 1956; Black Surface, 1957) and his radical artistic position in the context of Croatian post-war art. On the one hand Popović renews High Modernist obsession with the definition of the medium of painting, with the reduction of the long tradition of Western painting down to the phenomena of the surface and frame of the picture, for example, and on the other hand refers to the cultural climate in which such a conception of painting figures and is interpreted. As post-modern nomad, to whom all is permissible, for everything is simultaneous and current, or new, and retrograde or obsolescent, Popović repeating the gesture of the painting of Art Informel, does not repeat the creed of Existentialism nor does he represent the outriders of artistic progress in which the painting, for example, is freed of the ephemeral tasks characteristic of everyday life. Instead of that Popović’s early paintings in an archival manner underline one of the episodes in the complex and sometimes contradictory history of national and European art.

In the paintings he exhibited in 2000, Popović expanded his strategy of precise contextualisation deconstructing the speciously homogenous text of modern painting in such away as to show, in the framework of a single work of art, different and indeed antinomic painterly practices. These are paintings of large rectangular formats the surface of which is not covered with heavy paint material as in the cycle of 1998 the surface (wood or paper supports) now being painted or drawn with delicate graphic pigments grey acrylic and silver. In the context of Greenberg s high modernism theory all the conditions for the identification of painting a painting are met. The painting is a surface a two-dimensional panel, bounded by some borders. Next, the painting points up its own flatness at the expense of the depiction of every illusion of depth. It suggests the material of which it is made or painted; it makes the work of the painter's hand visible; it sidesteps or rules totally out any associations of local colour; it privileges the appearance of the line, to the detriment of the method of tonal painting; it presents simple forms that correspond with the format of the painting, or with the surrounding space (the white cube) and so on (Greenberg, 1992).

In the paintings he showed that year, above all, Popović expanded the repository of painterly gesture. The ponderous lnformel-ish uniform application of paint was replaced by dense, circular and spiral movements of graphite and lead pencil on a flat smooth surface of paper and wood. The large areas of the paintings and the tiny movements of the hand in their graphite and lead traces made reference to the typical painterly gesture of Expressionism, while on the other hand they suggest the work or project of Julije Knifer, particularly the part in which he paints or draws in graphite pencil his meander series.

However, not restricting himself only to a reference to the typical representative of painterly High Modernism (Knifer) and the context from which and in which we always again reinterpret him (formalist criticism, Existentialism and Nihilism, the aesthetics of process), or not quoting just the Expressionist macro-culture of Western art, Popović imports into his painting the Constructivist or analytic tradition of modern art. This figures as the inheritance of constructivism in a mathematical or Euclidian approach to the surface of the picture. The surface is divided by a perpendicular grid into triptychs or diptychs composed according to the golden section. A surface treated in this way comes out as part of the heritage of Minimalist and post-Conceptualist art, in a uniform transparent and quasi-mechanical coverage of the surface of the painting with a monochrome paint. Juxtaposing, in this way, two different traditions from the history of modern art – that which in the interpretation of American art criticism is represented by the exceptional figure of the individual artist who with his or her personal and transcending activity plays the role of moral and aesthetic corrector of society and that which in the interpretation of for example Filiberto Menna (Menna, 2001), is described with the application of Cartesian, logical and para-scientific procedures by the artist understood as analyst and investigator – Popović deconstructs the apparently stable and unquestionable interpretations of nature and the history of modern art. Showing at the same time the parallel worlds of post-Minimalist painterly procedures and the Existentialist, para-Expressionist expression of internal experience, Popović re-topicalizes the old aporias. Is art a matter of experience and not of principle, as Greenberg would have it, or is art a supra-individual application of a certain quasi-scientific procedure for the sake of social progress (Bauhaus, Vjenceslav Richter, New Tendencies and others), or is art the idea of the idea of art (Joseph Kosuth, Goran Trbuljak and others) ... and so on?

In 2003, showing pictures with irregular non-perpendicular frames, Popović once again positioned himself in the intertextual network of modernist painting. As in the foreword to the catalogue of the exhibition Jasminka Babić observed (Babić, 2003) Popović's work with irregular frames of his paintings is not just a quote of or a reference to the work of American artist Frank Stella, but also a procedure that in the context of his entire work has a more complex role. American post-painterly abstraction, represented by the painting of Stella, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski and others, is largely in formalist art criticism interpreted as being a kind of correction of Abstract Expressionism. In the idealised history of modern art in which styles, movements and periods alternate in linear progression constantly perfecting the medium of the work and the objectives of the activity, to the artists of post-painterly abstraction fell the role of being a corrective of the prior painterly paradigm. It consisted of a modified understanding of the social role of the artist, a return to an impersonal manner of painting, in the introduction of simple geometrical forms into the painting, the application of the forms of the easel painting and so on. Change of the form of the painting, its frame, is one of the best-known signs of post-painterly abstraction, and from the viewpoint of American art criticism marks the final degree in the self-cognition of the painting as painting. Relying on the Greenberg definition of the easel painting as a bounded and framed surface, Michael Fried in a paper dedicated to the paintings of Frank Stella puts forward the typology of picture framing (Fried, 1992a). At base, claims Fried, the modernist painting refers to its own objectness, so that, on the one hand, it emphasises its two-dimensionality and its flatness, and on the other hand foregrounds its framework, its form as object. Setting up a distinction between the literal frame of the painting (the stretcher), which is most often rectangular, and the figurative framework, which derives from the structure of the painted surface, Fried in the permutations of all these factors managed to discern four versions of the attitude of modernist painting to the literal or the figurative frame of the painting: the painting draws attention to its two-dimensionality by bringing out its flatness (Pollock, Newman); painting, through the new illusionist methods, turns attention away from the flatness of the surface to the painting framework and its role in the composing and structuring of the painting (Louis, Noland, Olitski); the structure of the painting becomes determined by the frame, the objective form of the painting (Stella, Noland); the domination of the literal over the figurative frame of the painting and its liberation from the dictates of the rectangular form of the painting (Stella, Noland).

Having taken over the non-right-angled format of the painting, as in the previous cycle, Popović contrasted the disparate traditions of modernist painting in a single picture, or at a single exhibition. This time the signs of the Expressionist painting tradition (drawings of spirals) and signs of artistic processuality (covering the whole surface of the picture with even and measured movements of a graphite pencil) are juxtaposed to the poetics of American painting based on the impersonality of painting, the use of pure and bright colours, and the presentation of simple geometrical elements (a rectangular strip, a circle, a rhomboid). In the context of the exhibition as pictorial, spatial text, Popović himself, to the powerful signs of high Modernism, evoking diverse discourses of post-war painting (post-painterly abstraction, Informel, processual art) contrasts the typically post-modernist situation of the promised space (Šuvaković, 2001). For he adjusted paintings of non-right-angled, variously broken formats to the space of the gallery and thus emphasised the turn in which the easel, Modernist painting no longer possesses the primacy in the order of signs of the exhibition, the history of art, culture, society. The structure of easel painting in postmodernism – at the particular end of art history, which has, together with the whole culture, lost faith in progress – is not longer determined by the intra-art rules, but by the extra-art world, which starts right here, in the gallery itself.

In the last series of paintings that I shall analyse here, Popović imports into the code of high Modernist art discourse another error, another bug. This is the photographic image. Formalist aesthetics at base did not avoid figural depictions. A certain degree of figurability in the image, particularly in the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism in American and European painting was without any doubt permitted. What is more, Greenberg laid particular stress on some of the figurable painterly practices, calling them homeless representation (Greenberg, 1997:81). What was in a sense undesirable was the manifestation of the illusion of three-dimensional space. The photograph image was for the high Modernist line of painting, for almost a hundred years of history, first of all a kind of competition and painting in various manners resisted the ever increasing influence that the increasingly heterogeneous photographic technology of re-producing reality gradually acquired over the course of time. The entry of photography into painting fit in with the downfall of the high Modernist painting project, or with the appearance of numerous late Modernist and post-Modernist art practices (Conceptual Art, Pop Art, Arte Povera and so on).

In a cycle of paintings of 2004 Popović simulated one such hybrid situation, once again making use of various signs and texts of art and culture to lay stress on his neutral, archivist, learned position as painter of painting. The appearance of figuration, or the realistic representation of reality in Popović's painting is related to a concrete event, a tourist trip to New York. The scenes of the city, of the museum and commercial interiors, the uncommonly framed and almost impossible to recognise motifs from the street, mixed up with fragments of images from the history of art are the scenes that we look at in these paintings. These are tourist photos, the hyper-realism of the reproduction technology being reduced to the grey and pink tones; their mimetic qualities are played down to a depiction recalling an old and somewhat blurry newspaper picture. On the surface of each of the paintings, Popović later on, after the process of reproducing the photograph on a lead plate, drew in or painted by hand red figures of a more or less regular figure of the cube.

At work here once again is the post-Modernist ambivalence and paradox. On the one hand, the experience of the trip to New York is let into the photograph as mediator between experience and the representation of it, a photograph that in the process of being reproduced loses most of its realistic semantic potentials. On the other hand, the universal, impersonal sign, the cube drawn in red paint, is compositionally centred, and thus located at the semantically most important place in the picture. This is also the only motif in the picture that is painted or drawn, that is not produced mechanically. What then is a traditional part of the canon of maths, or of abstract painting, something that is a supra-individual, globally intelligible sign, is presented by the work of the most personal act, the act of drawing and painting.

Once again Popović brings us up sharp against the hybrid, against contradiction and heterogeneity in post-Modern painting. In the culture of hyperbolic production and consumption of cultural signs, texts and discourses, in the network of archives, museums and galleries, in the repository of painting techniques, methods, ideologies and strategies, what is the indivisible language of painting? The physical trace of the brush on the surface, the mathematically set relationship between the basic geometrical elements, the illusion of virtual space, the mimesis of everyday experience? All of the above or none? As a post-Modern art, Popović is aware that working outside the signifying or discursive net of contemporary culture is impossible. In the culture of late capitalism, art signs and the worlds of art do not possess coherent, unambivalent aesthetic or cultural meanings, but are formed, used, cast aside and used again in their own incessant semiosis. In his painting work, Popović is nomadically and always differently positioned in relation to some of the key historical models of the production and consumption of art.


Rhetoric of Sculpture


Although in this article the work of Popović in the area of painting and in the area of sculpture is presented separately, since at least 2000, this work has gone on simultaneously. What is more the work in the area of sculpture shows a structural correlation with the work in painting. Describing the philosophy of Modernist sculpture, its history, the rapid alternations of its aesthetics from Rodin to the post-Modernism of the eighties, Miško Šuvaković in an analysis of the work of new British sculptors (Deacon, Woodrow, Kapoor, Cragg, Gormley and others) drew attention to several key strategies in their work, most of which can be applied in the interpretation of Popović's sculpture too. These are the transformation of three-dimensional object into spatial installation, the rejection of the constructive concept and the establishment of methods of work of collage and montage and the introduction of semantic elements as a way of bringing out the fictional potential of sculpture, as an opposition to the High Modernist notion of sculpture as plastic symbol par excellence, of the Minimalist insistence on the material literalness of the sculpture. As Šuvaković says: historical examples of sculptural expression are not rejected by deconstruction, rather they are used as signs of the reinvestigation and debate of the historical and intellectual field of sculpture (Šuvaković, 2001: 155). The formalist aesthetics of High Modernism requires painting and sculpture both to be inducted into their own physical phenomenality, to their objectness, which literally occupies a certain space. Like the painting too, sculpture has to be self-referential, or it must indicate a certain distinctiveness that it does not share with any other art. Above all it has to demonstrate its own materialness, its primary assignment is to show what it is made of particularly now when in Modernism it has the guaranteed freedom to use whatever materials it likes (Greenberg, 1992). The ideal type of modernist sculpture is a solid, momentarily comprehensible three dimensional object of a certain mass, which occupies, with its volume a certain space. During its development, modernist sculpture moved in two directions. One led to the foregrounding of its objectness (Minimalism), or its surface (the drawing in space); the other led to the deconstruction of its formal and then of its discourse particularities.

I shall interpret Popović's sculptures in an analogy with the other trend, which in Post-Modernism was completely endorsed. In his sculptures, deconstruction of High Modernist sculpture is brought out in two ways. In the first, with the introduction of semantic elements, the relations between surface, mass, volume, and material of the sculpture are made an issue of; while in the second, by an extension of the three-dimensional sculptural body in to the gallery, ambiental space, its being overdetermined by the space of the gallery, of the art, the culture is focused on. Although he does not use the ability to signify his works via the agency of the name of the work, programmatically calling all his works with the label Untitled, quoting thus one of the favourite Modernist cultural topoi i.e. the idea of universality - Popović achieves semantic deconstruction in his early sculptural work by placing the sculpture in the situation in which it does not owe its objectness to some outstanding feature, some autonomy of form but the ability to be transformed, to play a role, for example of a curtain or a screen. To be no Modernist object, then rather a kind of a substitute, of a non-art everyday object. Thank to this turn, the key questions of Modernist sculpture, such as of mass, volume and surface are no longer a matter of independent artistic judgement, but are overdetermined by the world of everyday and non-art objects. A piece of canvas that hangs retains most of its particularities, even when it is reproduced in lead. He repeated a similar strategy in 2003 in the sculpture for which he won the Grand Prix of the Croatian Sculpture Triennial, when he arranged a man shirt, trousers, belt and tie done or literally tailored in lead sheeting like real garments in a glass display case.

Popović was to repeat the same kind of semantic turn in sculpture in which the sculptural surface, the mass and volume do not rely on the world of non-art object but tautologically display their redundancy in the establishment of a certain sculptural value or perhaps show a deficit in an attempt to be set up as sculpture. In the first case a kitchen table and chair are covered with a thin layer of rubber with a surface that hides the volume of the sculpture and unites its other plastic qualities. The sculpture of the table and chair can be also shown by the rubber being taken off stripped off the volume of the chair. Thus the one-time concealed volume becomes a new surface which apart from the diversity of the materials (wood-rubber) shows no structural difference as compared with the old surface the old second sculpture. The surface is not hiding the secret life of the volume with which the Modernist project of liberating the sculpture from the function of the statue started with Rodin but just in another material replicates itself.

In another case the world of other people s different sculptures determines the author's ability to set an object up as a sculpture. In other words the rubber underwear meant for the nude male and female statue of Ivan Meštrović can be understood as an art work or as a sculpture only in some intertextual relationship with Meštrović s gigantic wooden figures that is with his art or that is with Meštrović's position in the corpus of the national history of modern art.

The development of modern sculpture can be described by the opening of the internal area of the sculpture (the volume) or by the process of semantic equation of the internal (concealed) and external (visible) space of sculptural form. The process started with Futurist (Boccioni, Development of Bottle in Space, 1912) and Constructivist works (Tatlin, Corner Relief, 1915; Gabo, Head of a Woman, 1916) goes on into the surrealism determined by the works of Giacometti (Palace at 4 in the morning) and makes its way into post-war art via the vitalist concept of sculpture in the works of Henry Moore (Semi-Reclining Figure, 1945) and Barbara Hepworth (Pelagos, 1946). In Late Modernism and particularly in Post-Modernism of the eighties and nineties sculpture spread in the ambience of the gallery of rural or urban space becoming land art ambiences spatial installation.

The work of Viktor Popović in the area of sculpture can partially be interpreted very much in the context of the Modernist transformation of the sculpture as body or as construction into the sculpture as temporary spatial installation or ambience. In the works he has done in the last two years the main elements he uses in his installations are white fluorescent and argon tubes with their appropriate fittings and the cables through which they are powered. In the Zagreb premises of the Association of Croatian Artists, Popović has used these two kinds of lighting installations, so as to intervene twice, differently in the same gallery space. Adjusting himself to the space of the gallery or rather bringing to the fore its architectural qualities, Popović set up an ambience in which the traditional Modernist definition of the sculpture as body or construction is no longer effective. Instead the sculpture has turned into a provisional, visual and spatial text, in which are enabled, as visitor, participant and body to take part.

For example in the angular space, with the use of fabricated aluminium holders, he leans argon tubes like beams on corner walls, bringing out the neglected properties of architectural space as sculptural space. The opalescent white light of the argon tubes dissipates the last hints of traditional categories, of the serious and grave tradition of Modernist sculpture, in which manual work in the mastery of formless material was one of the first conditions for the art of the sculptor. Instead of severe manual work as forming of the unformed, instead of manual work as simulation of industrially produced forms and objects (Morris, Judd, Cragg, Deacon, Kovač and others) Popović makes use of industrially produced objects as forms, objects and sculptures made ready in advance. He uses the conception of the architectural overdetermination of sculpture in installations in other premises (Croatian Academy Glyptotheque, City Library in Komiža) with the proviso that he was to expand the repertoire of industrially produced objects in Komiža with the old school seats.

Popović's deconstruction of Modernist sculpture, then, uses certain results of the avant-garde reinterpretation of the art of sculpture, like the work with outside and ambiental space of sculpture, and also certain strategies of Post-Modernist sculpture, such as work with industrially produced objects and work with architectural and urban space, as superordinate to the space of the sculpture. In Šuvaković's laconic history of sculpture: “Instead of the body the statue, instead of the statue the figure, instead of the figure the object, instead of the object the ready made, instead of the ready made the idea of the sculpture, instead of the idea of the sculpture the mimesis of historical sculptural patterns (an archive of sculpture) in precisely contextualised collage productions (Šuvaković, 2001: 149), to Popović, in this idealised narration, belongs the last and final phase.


Rhetoric of Criticism


Responding to increasingly frequent criticisms addressed to the formalist aesthetics of High Modernism, Michael Fried one of the most prominent of his champions in the sixties, explained the lack of interest of post-war American art criticism in the social conditions in which art is created and in which it is consumed evolution-wise, saying that art, at last in the 20th century was liberated from having to subserve various social, economic or political interests (Fried, 1992b). In his interpretation, the Abstract painting and formalist art criticism, had split off aesthetic from oral problems and thus rounded off the dialectical development of history, which started in the Renaissance and finished in various styles, currents and movements of Modernist art. If the alienation of the citizen or the artist from church and state, of from modern society as a whole was worth anything, Fried went on, it was good for the world of art, which with the appearance of Modernist culture at last became an independent institution. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, somewhat later, criticised the theory of art of High Modernism in the context of the culture of the Cold War division between East and West. In the post-war art culture, marked by political conflict between two social systems (capitalism and socialism), there were two dominants of representation: the representation of art as a particular activity independent of society and according the representation of artists as exceptional individuals who with their work confirmed the truth of individual human liberty. Both representations were interpreted as a given, in relation to which the so-called second voice of Modernism - the manifestations of which ranged from the insight into the arbitrariness and not the naturalness of artistic representation, the establishment of the metalanguage of art, to the awareness of the inseparability of art from society - was always interpreted as secondary, second-degree, and ultimately as non-artistic (Harrison, 2001).

In this chapter the work of Viktor Popović has been interpreted in the wider context of the second voice of Modernism, which in the different Post-Modernist critical and theoretical practices has once again become current and topical, if not dominant. Among the main Protean forms of Post-Modernist art theory, some of them seem more suitable than others for an interpretation of Popović's art. Above all this includes the philosophical and historical macroformations of post-structuralism and deconstruction (Derrida and Foucault) and the theory of hyper-reality (Baudrillard, 2001). In both cases, artistic work is interpreted as an expression that has its meaning only in relation to other expressions of art and culture as a whole. An artistic work is created in the endless semiosis of production and interpretation: an artist is no longer in some direct and exceptional relationship with nature, reality or culture, rather is an analyst, a compiler or archivist of culture, no longer capable of imagining a deliberate and intentional and progressive movement according to new ways of existence, work or the making of art. In line with the position of the artist, the art critic is no longer a mere mediator between artistic practice, as privileged activity of the world of art, and the general public, the translator of one code (image, visual impression) into another (language, verbal notion). He is no longer ideal interpreter of the art work, the discoverer of hidden meaning, the comrade of the artist in the everyday confirmation of the identity of art. On the contrary, like the artist, he too works in the culture of plenty, in the culture of a hyperproduction of art, and of talk about art, in a culture in which the primacy of practice over theory in the interpretation of art no longer has any serious grounding.

This interpretation has circumvented those forms of Post-Modernist art theory that deal above all with the social aspects of the production and consumption of art. These included various theoretical practices, the best known of which are Marxist, feminist and post-colonial theory. In other words, it failed to answer to the question that has been put in their time by Baldwin, Harrison and Ramsden: “what does the world have to be like, or what did it have to be like, to produce precisely that kind of work of art?” (Baldwin et ai., 12005: 304). If, that is, Popović works with signs, texts, and discourses of High Modernism, if he quotes the works of Ivo Gattin, Julije Knifer, Frank Stella, Dan Flavin, the new British sculptors, what does that actually mean for Croatian art culture at the beginning of the new century? Or, putting it this way, how and why in the changed social and political conditions (transition, post-socialism, political independence) does the art culture of formalist High Modernism still prove to be dominant in Croatia? Since these rather knotty issues go beyond the interpretation of an individual art work, and demand broader interdisciplinary research, it remains for me to hope that in the future they will have sufficient currency to prompt the opening up of new subjects of research, or new debates in the discipline and the general public.



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