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P74 Gallery

Drago Dellabernardina

30 March – 21 April 2017
P74 Gallery, Trg Prekomorskih brigad 1, Ljubljana

You are kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition by Drago Dellabernardina at P74 Gallery, on Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 7 p.m.

Public lecture by dr. Miško Šuvaković: Thursday, 20 April 2017 at 18.00 at the P74 Gallery in Ljubljana.

Like everyone from my generation and the generation of our parents from Postojna, as well as for many young people, I’m familiar with the name Drago Dellabernardina. Some people know him through his visual art, others know him as the best guitarist in the former Yugoslavia. In both fields his creativity was the most fruitful at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. On this exhibition, we present an overview of his visual arts work from this period.

Drago Dellabernardina’s most famous work is the intervention into public space in which he hung a banner across the railway overpass spanning the street Celovška cesta in Ljubljana with the inscription: “Underpass exhibited by Drago Dellabernardina” (March 1968). Alongside this work a series of documentary photographs was created showing the process of hanging the banner and the finished work, the artist is also visible on several of the photos. Two of the latter comprise a new work, since they are mounted on grey paper and signed and dated by the artist. In the upper photograph we see the banner and its inscription in the background; in the foreground, we see the artist with his hands above his head, a gesture we can understand as presenting the work. In the lower photograph we see the same frame, yet this time the artist has moved to the background, where he stands under the banner, leaning against one of the supports of the underpass. The photographs are accompanied by the inscription “The Second Exhibition and part of the Independent Conceptual Projects in the years 1968– ” and the artist’s comment: “Even an underpass can be – just as each object of perception – an artwork.” We can understand this entire project as the artist’s most publically presented statement about what is art, what is an artwork and how it is created.

Nearly a year later in the student newspaper Tribuna (2 April 1969, no. 12, vol. XVIII, p. 15) appeared a piece entitled “what does drago dellabernardina do?”, listing multiple concepts of work, thoughts and statements. Among them we’ll mention the Project žogice (The ball project) which describes the process of carrying out a work, for which it is not known whether it was ever actually carried out. Also worth mentioning is the concept for the Projekt, ki traja 21969 let (The project, that lasts 21969 years) and Razstavljam tretjo stran Tribune (I’m exhibiting the third page of Tribuna), in which the artist with his commentary places existing objects, in the first case, the Venus of Willendorf, and in the second, the selected newspaper page, into a new context and in this way enables the creation of new meanings.

Not long after the Tribuna publication Drago Dellabernardina held a solo exhibition in the Dom kulture cultural center in Postojna, from 21 April to 5 May 1969. A review of the exhibition, written by Braco Rotar, was published in the journal Problemi (June–July 1969, no. 78-79, vol. 7, pp. 28–29). The review includes photos, three of which show works from the exhibition. On the first photo is the installation Rdeče kosilo (Red Lunch), consisting of a table, a plate, cutlery, a bottle, a glass and bread, all of which were – as we read in the review – red. On the second photo is a bed underneath which is a rug upon which is displayed another bed. Upon the top bed lie an unfolded pair of pajamas, on the floor beside the bed, lies another pair, in such a way that each piece on the side of the bed is partly covered by the rug. The third photo shows the installation, situated in the corner of the room, consisting of a strip hanging from the ceiling with a copy of the types of eggs, ending in a pile of eggshells on the floor. All of the mentioned works were created by a process of isolating everyday objects from their environment and arranging them into a new visual-semantic unit. Since in the review neither the titles nor any part of the artist’s comments are included, their interpretation is left to the viewer’s imagination.

The works described in the continuation are also from 1969. The first is the work Fotoroman (Photonovel), which appeared in the publication Katalog (Catalog), 1969/70. The work comprises 9 photos, arranged into 3 columns, showing the process of the artist’s intervention into nature. The photos from the first column show a square cutout of grass turf, removed from the ground and placed alongside the hole in the ground. The photos from the second column show the same cutout, now placed on a white board beside, or rather, above the hole and in it, this time on a stretched out piece of white fabric. The photos in the third column show something round wrapped in white fabric, placed in the hole, then the original cutout without the layer of grass beside the hole, in which is now the grass, and finally, the cutout without the layer of grass in the hole.

An untitled work, consisting of two photographs, mounted on grey paper, signed and dated by the artist, has a similar theme. The upper photo shows a square cutout of grass turf, in which there is an equally wide table, and placed upon it, the cutout. It is accompanied by a statement by the artist that reads “The earth bears the weight of the table and the table of the earth.” The lower photo shows the same table, placed above a slightly smaller square cutout of turf, on it lies the corresponding size of turf. It is accompanied by the statement “Only a table prevents the earth from falling into place.” Like the previous work, this one shows the artist’s intervention into nature, but this time accompanied by his statement. Together they can be understood in the broadest sense as a discourse on the relationship between man and nature, or rather, between man’s description of the world and the world itself.

To continue, we will briefly consider the artist’s works on paper. In 1969, he created a serigaph entitled Topljenje snega in taljenje ledu v Jugoslaviji (Melting snow and ice in Yugoslavia). The work shows the silhouette of the former Yugoslavia in green and that of the Adriatic Sea in blue on a brown background. In the middle of both the country and the sea are scaled silhouettes in white. The work has an ironically-critical charge, which we must read in the context of the then socio-political situation. As we know, the 1960s in Yugoslavia marked the democratization processes that led to the melting of the solid crust of socialist singlemindedness, showing beneath it a different colored image of Yugoslavia. Despite that this warming was only temporary, taken from today’s perspective, the work is prophetic, because a good twenty years later Yugoslavia disintegrated, and its individual states evolved into modern democratic systems.

In 1970, the artist created a number of signed and dated drawings in combined technique on paper. One of them is entitled Raznorazni prebliski in kukanje v onostranstvo (Various flashbacks and peeks into the world beyond), a title which could also apply to the other drawings. At first glance, the drawings serve as colorful mind maps in which we find images, shapes, lines, numbers, individual letters and whole words in different languages. A more detailed observation reveals that they are attempts at transmitting thought processes, such as association, analogy, analysis, synthesis, deduction, induction, into a visual language. Thus, they are drawings trying to find the most direct way to portray thinking.

To conclude, we mention three works that were created within the OHO movement, in which Drago Dellabernardina was also involved. The most famous work, entitled Triglav, was a living sculpture performed by David Nez, Milenko Matanović and Drago Dellabernardina in Ljubljana’s Zvezda Park on 30 December 1968. At about the same time and in the same place occurred the happening Stonoga (Centipede) by Srečo Dragan and in 1969 the happening Vaja s piščalko po ljubljanskih ulicah (Rehearsal with a whistle through the streets of Ljubljana). In this respect, it should be noted that art history considers Draga Dellabernardina among the individuals who worked within the movement OHO, but he himself deflects any connection with OHO, which he has stated several times, also in the media. Nonetheless, his work is an important piece in the mosaic of Slovenian art and deserves full consideration. We hope that the present exhibition is the first and by no means the last step on this path.
Mojca Grmek

Special thanks to Moderna galerija Ljubljana and Marinko Sudac Collection, Zagreb.