“Jurilofca” is a series of graphic works – sketches and drawings in charcoal and graphite, woodcuts on paper – made by Geta Brătescu during and after a research trip to the Danube Delta eponymous village in 1959. Jurilofca (Jurilovca, at present) is a fishing village in the county of Tulcea founded by Lippovans (a minority of Russian ethnicity persecuted and banished on religious grounds), where Geta Brătescu spent almost a month documenting the local community’s life and work. These immersions in different social environments were among the activities that the Fine Artists’ Union’s members did in accordance to the time’s ideological conditionings. Geta Brătescu had joined the Union in 1957 inside the Graphic Art Department, although she hasn’t been allowed to finalise her artistic training in 1949 due to her bourgeois origins. The artist has always acknowledged the various field trips organised by the Union – to the Soviet Union, the Danube Delta or the Grivița Plants in Bucharest – as genuine field research and chances of expanding her experience, knowledge and visual scope, of creating sketches and compositions that would later generate other motifs and thematic series in her artistic practice (such is the case with the Grivița Plants’ boiler rooms, from which she would develop in time the theme of the circle, an alchemical melting pot of forms and materials, to be found in some of the artist’s essential works).
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The exhibition comprises sketches made by Geta Brătescu during her stay in the Danube Delta, together with some of the resulting drawings and etchings that have been exhibited in November 1960 in her graphic art solo show at Galateea Gallery – her first solo show after being expelled in 1949 and after properly rejoining the professional artistic field. In them one can discern altogether the attentive look, the anthropological inquisitiveness, the artist’s skill and passion for drawing, that catch and record snapshots of a new yet timeless world: the Danube, the harbour, the boats, the fishermen’s portraits, women engaged in various physical works of handling and stacking the reed, etc.
In those years, U.A.P. [The Artists’ Union] put in its schedule documentary activities: the artists were encouraged to travel to various regions of Romania, to work there for a while and then to exhibit the results in solo shows or in the official salons.The Danube Delta was in great vogue; one can analyse this from a political point of view. But for me it was an opportunity to enter a world which at that time I discovered as being an exotic one, still unpolluted, where the population – mostly Lippovans – lived by following its ancestral laws. I got a licence that allowed me to travel using all the fishing boats. Thus I was able to cross a large area, through large and small canals, from one fishers’ tavern to another, to Jurilovca, and crossing the Razelm lagoon to the Portiţa, on the seashore. I was drawing, I was drawing, sometimes putting the sketchbook on the ground. I kept some of those drawings; today I find them more interesting than their subsequent translations into the xylography technique. It was an important and happy experience: I experienced the surprises and emotions of an explorer, the joy of communicating through drawing and at the same time a professional exercise which is impossible to forget.” (G.B. 2006)
Geta Brătescu (b. 1926, Ploiești – d. 2018, Bucharest) has been a central figure of Romanian contemporary art since the 1960s. An artist with a rich and long career, Brătescu developed a complex body of work that comprises drawing, collage, engraving, tapestry, object, photography, experimental film, video, and performance. She studied at the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy and concurrently at the Fine Arts Academy in Bucharest and worked as an artistic director for the magazine “Secolul 20 [20th Century]”, renamed “Secolul 21 [21st Century]” at the turn of the millennium.
Geta Brătescu took part in some of the most important contemporary art exhibitions, such as Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel (2017), La Biennale di Venezia (2013), La Triennale, Paris, Palais de Tokyo (2012) and the 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011), to name just a few. In 2017, Geta Brătescu represented Romania in the Venice Biennale with the project “Apparitions”, the first solo show of a woman artist in the Romanian Pavilion.
Among her recent solo shows are the ones at Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2018), Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles (2018) and New York (2017), Camden Arts Center, London and MSK Gent (2018), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (2016), Tate Liverpool (2015), Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2014).
The exhibition can be visited until 15th of December 2018, Wednesday to Saturday 12-18, or by appointment outside the visiting hours.
Special thanks: Ion Grigorescu, Ștefan Sava (Salonul de proiecte)
photo credits: Cătălin Georgescu