GORGONA – ART AS A WAY OF EXISTENCE
MANGELOS AS A MEMBER OF GORGONA
“From 1959 to 1966, there was a group of artists in Zagreb about which little has remained in the written art history of this area. “Gorgona” was not an art group in the usual sense, whose goal was to promote a certain ideological-esthetic concept and recruit protagonists among the elite of the local art scene. It was a group of artists who shared common affinities in a much broader sense than that implied by the framework of any stylistic program. The fact that “Gorgona’s” activities were of a very discrete and non-spectacular nature is one of the reasons why it went unregistered in the written, and rarely mentioned in the oral cultural tradition of these places. The members of “Gorgona” were painters Marijan Jevsovar, Julije Knifer, Duro Seder and Josip Vanista, sculptor Ivan Kozaric, architect Miljenko Horvat and art historians Dimitrije Basicevic, Matko Mestrovic and Radoslav Putar; by its professional structure and, even more so, by the absence of a program to act as a cohesive force and stimulate group activities, “Gorgona” was not an art group in usual sense of the word. The fact that five of the group’s members were artists does not fully explain principles on which the group was founded. The “gorgonic spirit” only indirectly determined their individual works, and all of them retained and continued to develop their own creative autonomy. Furthermore, “Gorgona” was made up of those few rare artistic personalities who by their own creative contributions anticipated events on the international art scene, not content like the majority of others with the eclecticism of long since expended art concepts.”
Trying to define the mystic and in many ways unprecedented artistic activities of Gorgona, art critic Nena Dimitrijevic defines three important points of art of that time that if put together made it possible for her to produce the first interpretation of Gorgona’s art. The first point is contextual, defining end of 1960’s as a time when the western spirit met oriental phylosophy and started to get interested in the experiences of zen-budhism (Cage, Klein, La Monte Young). The second being the art of Yves Klein who introduced the ideas of eastern philosophy into European art and produced his first monochrome in 1950. Activities of Fluxus (Brecht, Watts, Vostel, Rot, Filliou) became the third point of her contexualization of Gorgona mostly because they paved the road to the esthetics of silence and monotony abolishing the traditional notion of art act and object. Having in mind those three points as results of different and geographically distant spiritual (philosophical and artistic) activities, one could understand that Gorgona was actually doing the same thing but on the completely unexpected place, in Yugoslavia, where artists who considered themselves progressive were accepting the esthetic concepts of informel, abstract expressionism, action painting and lyric apstraction. Acting as a non formal group whose gatherings and walks, they considered to be the essence of their art, Gorgona has become an anticipator of future developments in post-war European art.
The most significant manifestation of Gorgona’s activities was publishing of the Gorgona anti-magazine. Looking from today’s point of view, this anti-review became a forefunner of the “book as art work” as defined much later by Celant.
“With the anti-review Gorgona, the esthetic principles of an entire generation are anticipated, and precisely through some of the ideas it presented the future issue of conceptual art is predicted and defined.”
Each number of the anti-magazine stands for one authentic piece of art. Pierro Manzoni, Robert Rauschenberg, Dieter Roth, Harold Pinter, Victor Vassarely took part in this Gorgona project. Most radical example of the idea that stood behind the anti-magazine was realised by Mangelos whose issue of Gorgona was the one never to be published, existent only in memory.
*Quotes are from Nena Dimitrijevic, Gorgona, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, 1977.