Dóra Maurer

Hungarian artist Dóra Maurer stands alongside Miklós Erdély, Gábor Bódy and Tibor Hajas as one of the best-known representatives of the Hungarian avant-garde scene of the 1960s and ’70s. Although she worked in various media over the course of her long artistic career, a focus on the theme of order can be made out as one of the most important common denominators in her work. “This order, however, should be interpreted in a rather elastic way,”[1] writes László Beke in his text “Objective Tenderness.” On the one hand, geometric form and the systematic, constructive method play a great role, while on the other hand the phenomenon of coincidence functions as an important generator of her pictorial constructions.

Via methodically done deviations in terms of structure, Maurer achieves structural shifts.


In her phase graphics, which she showed in 1975 at the Neue Galerie in Graz, sequentially timed shifts were imaged on a single sheet of paper. The geometric forms (squares, lines intersecting at right angles, circles, a square tipped to form a parallelogram), placed beneath a thin transfer printing film, were pressed according to an intaglio printing process developed by the artist herself. Following each print, the forms beneath the foil were either moved or modified, pressed once again, colored and printed.


The staging of these shifts facilitates questioning of their complexity and potential. The moment they are analyzed more closely and altered via minimal movements, insignificant and  mundane situations are transformed into intriguing processes of experimentation with our social practices. The same applies to the film Learned Spontaneous Motions, in which the artist plays with the principle of repeating, expanding and varying the basic motif. A young woman reads a book, playing with her hair and changing her facial expression while reading. The 60-second movement series is shown in four sequences. The first segment shows the series’ first 15 seconds, the second shows the first 30, the third shows the first 45 seconds, and the final segment shows the entire 60 seconds. The voice of Dóra Maurer—reading a text by Sholokhov—provides the soundtrack for the filmed images. “Maurer’s films are ‘variable systems,’ which is to say that they do not document predetermined processes. The structure, for the most part limited by strict rules, first appears via the film (i.e. in the film) as a process. The system itself can be better compared with mathematical or logical deductions…”[2]


In the 1970s, Dóra Maurer began using the principle of the shift in her mathematical tables. She was interested in the systematization of mathematical relations between amounts shifted this way and that.[3] Fascinated by developments which she “had only set in motion but not ‘made’” herself,[4] She cut out the images in order to lend the flat surfaces more character. "The system graphics are abstract, indifferent. The only way to render them lively, corporeal, capable of being experienced and aesthetically evaluated is through the strategy of choosing details.”[5] As part of the exhibition Exakte Tendenzen at the Modern Art Galerie (Vienna, 1982), she tested her idea of conceiving of an entire room with all its bordering surfaces as a “quasi-image.”


Various manifestations of color and color layerings, as well as different types of lighting, evidence increasingly perspectival constructions in her images from the 1990s; these give an impression of depth. Sometimes Maurer also projected the images on a vaulted surface, subsequently painting the resulting form on a flat medium (as in Hemisphärische Drillinge, 1999).




[1] Beke Láslzló, Objective Tenderness, in: Dieter Ronte, Beke Láslzló, Dóra Maurer, Arbeiten 1970-1993, p. 99.

[2] Peternák Miklós, Maurer Dóra. Filmek – 1973-83, catalog published by Pécsi Galéria, Pécs, 1983.

[3] See Dieter Ronte, Beke Láslzló, Dóra Maurer, Arbeiten 1970-1993, p. 118.

[4] Anna Bálványos, „Fragen an Dóra Maurer“ [Questions posed to Dóra Maurer], in: maurer dóra, catalog of the exhibition Concise Oeuvre, Museum Ludwig – Museum für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Budapest, 5 Dec. 2008–22 Feb. 2009, p.220.

[5] Maurer Dóra: A relatív Quasi-képekről. In Dialog, 1990.

1937, Budapest / HU

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What can One do with a Paving Stone? 1971, detail
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