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  • Edi Hila. Painter of Transformation
    24 May - 29 July 2018

    National Gallery of Arts, Tirana Edi Hila. Painter of Transformation 25/05 –  29/07/2018 Curators: Kathrin Rhomberg, Erzen Shkololli, Joanna Mytkowska Loans by Kontakt: Edi Hila: 5 paintings of the series "A tent on the roof of a car" (K712-K716) 18 drawings of the series "The Poultry" (K694-K711) The National Gallery of Arts presents the first retrospective exhibition of Edi Hila in Albania. Edi Hila was born in Shkodra in 1944. He lives and works in Tirana. In addition to his artistic practice, Hila is an influential teacher associated with the University of Arts in Tirana. Educated in Shkodra, a city with ancient beginnings, Hila experimented with forms that ran counter to the realist aesthetics propagated during his studies in the 1960s. In 1972 he painted Planting of Trees, a pleasant picture rendered slightly unreal through the use of color, which because of its departure from the approved socialist realist doctrine, soon became a pretext for ordering him to work in a factory as punishment. But before the communist authorities took offence and doomed his chances for practicing art, he briefly visited Florence in 1973, where he was sent as a promising artist and scenographer for Albanian television. Contact with the Florentine museums and Renaissance painting had a huge impact on Hila. For his departure from socialist realism, Hila was sent to work for three years at a poultry plant where his main task was hauling sacks. In the evenings of 1975-1976 he secretly created a series of drawings called “Poultry”, documenting the life of the workers and harrowing in their raw realism. In the 1990s, seeking a path back to painting, Hila carefully observed life evolving after the fall of the communist regime and tried to depict the realities of the Albanian transformation. The groundbreaking series “Comfort” (1997) captures the insatiable consumer utopia promised to the society. Hila created the series in response to the dramatic crisis caused by the collapse of financial pyramid schemes,which drove the country into chaos. Hila primarily works in series treating a selected theme over several paintings. The most important of Hila’s series include “Paradox” (2000–2005), “Relations” (2002–2014), “Threat” (2003–2009), “Roadside Objects” (2007–2010), “Penthouses” (2013), “Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard” (2015) and “Tent on the Roof of a Car” (2017). The realism of his painting is distinct, based on careful observation of detail, which he exploits to convey the psychological truth of the observed phenomenon. Hila carefully selects the themes for his painting series. In his version, this strips the transformation in Eastern Europe of accident or adventure typical of many presentations of this time, and gives it the weight of distilled general truths, as if he were its final chronicler. One of the reasons for such radical reduction may be Hila’s leaning toward classicism, a fascination with Renaissance sources of painting. It is as if modernism has evaporated from his field of interest. This is why the transformation, in collision with the classical tradition of painting and balance understood in the distant spirit of the Renaissance, conveys so clearly the disruption and attack on harmony and order in Hila’s work. On the other hand, it is rooted in human dilemmas that are hard to conceal, even with a veneer of modernization. Exhibition architecture: Büro Meyer-Grohbrügge A joint project of the National Gallery of Arts in Albania, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Kontakt Collection in Vienna.

History

Following their establishment as privately owned savings banks in the early 19th century, the different branches of what has now become Erste Group had gone on to compile extensive art collections which developed in various historical contexts. In 2004, a newly elaborated concept served to finally combine Erste Group’s collecting activities in terms of both content and method. A research team led by Rainer Fuchs, chief curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) in Vienna, had begun evaluating the existing art collections of Erste Group’s members in 2002 and, based on their findings, developed a unified concept which laid the cornerstone for the present Kontakt collection. Kontakt is dedicated to making visible the art scene of the regions which it “explores,” as well as making an attempt at establishing a comprehensive body of works which can serve as an archive for research and exhibition-making.

Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe’s history consists of numerous partial histories that cannot be subsumed under any simple, common system. The collection’s historical beginnings in the context of the international avant-gardes of the 1960s documents the emergence of conceptual and actionist tendencies that were developing simultaneously and internationally. In addition to the aim of rearticulating certain elements of the most recent part of Europe’s art-historical canon, the collection also endeavors to include works that are erratic and nonetheless referential, works which testify to an art production that has been continuous and yet has often remained concealed from public view.

Thus, the historical point of departure for Kontakt is to be found in the conceptual tendencies and key artistic movements of the period running from the late 1950s to the 1970s. This historically oriented section starts at a point in contemporary art history at which decisive political, actionist, performative, feminist and gender-related movements entered the realm of art, henceforth to strongly foster the perception of these issues in the public sphere. On a conceptual-formalist level, many artworks of the period attempted to formulate reactions to the development of modernism and its status within the art discourse of the socialist countries. The latter also led to many artists’ own takes on minimalism and to a very specific use of materials and objects. Moreover, many of the works in the collection refer to artistic forms of creation which can very well be viewed in parallel with the works of artists in Western Europe and the Americas.

The artists and their works, which have become part of a unique collection as of 2004, have by now gained the attention of numerous curators and European museums. International exhibitions including several biennials and documenta XII have shown works by artists who have been part of the Kontakt collection from the very beginning. Thus, a growing general interest in the region of former Eastern Europe has been witnessed since the collection first set off on its mission.