AL 5, summer 1983, pp. 2-5.
GALÁNTAI-EXHIBITION IN NEW YORK
Between Central Park and the Lower East Side.
Everything is reassuringly familiar: all of emigration comes into view between the trees. Even those who do not belong there. They are loitering in the forest; they live there.
There are also more exhibition pavilions that way.
The pavilion of the Galántai exhibition is an L-shaped single-story brick building, spacious, and at one end it opens onto, and leads into the forest.
My father guides me through the whole exhibition, expounding. Incidentally, all the dead members of my family live there in the forest of the big city; this is then a real underground, common ground.
I arrived in New York not long ago, and I'm not really familiar yet with the city. I try to retrieve my preliminary ideas, and everything looms into sight.
It's dark, but we are rather just in a milieu of indefinable light – one can feel, this is the natural condition of light: night underground: not really dark.
The temperature is also unascertainable: there is no temperature; this is apparent also from the attire: everyone is wearing their most archetypical clothing, but the attire in fact could rather be said to be light. My father is wearing a gray suit, with a flannel shirt buttoned to the neck. Galántai is wearing a reddish tricot, and brownish-reddish corduroy pants.
Animals appear between the trees, one after the other: the theater in Kézdi-Kovács's Romantic Film. The members of the group come into view: promenades lead between the trees and the boulders.
I managed to reach America with great difficulty. I arrived by plane, after a long illness. I meet my reactionary, right-wing Catholic aunt; it seems that she is spending her last years here.
My almost completely blind grandfather rejoices for freedom.
I don't understand the concept of freedom; I try to make it clear that here the situation is even worse. He laughs, and says that since he is here, he can see again. He lives in an empty room, and hardly leaves it to go into the city. He says that the air in the city is full of marijuana, and that they kill you on the street.
I cannot understand this either: the neighborhood is infinitely peaceful and quiet. And speech is likewise something entirely peculiar: namely, we don't speak here with volume. And this is not strange at all, but rather reassuring.
Yet I still don't understand why these otherwise dead men feel good here. J.D. Salinger comes to my mind, and Holden Caulfield's thoughts about the Navajo blanket. I am glad that it is Salinger who first comes into my mind, and I feel ashamed that I had forgotten about him for so long.
My father is extraordinarily energetic, vilifying Tamás Szentjóby, but his words are mixed with respect. In truth, my relatives living in America do not appear, nor do they even come to my mind. I would like to meet my mother: I haven't seen her for years.
But first I look through the whole exhibition.
It's an enormous wealth of material; and only new work; a brand new concept. The captions and catalogue texts are all written in Hungarian, and in a strange way, this fills me with joy. Only that which I anyway know in English is written in English. I know most of the visitors to the exhibition too, with the exception of Árpád Ajtony.
This is the largest Galántai exhibition internationally until now; and for that matter, he is the first for whom they have put an entire pavilion at his disposal.
A surprising concept runs throughout the exhibition: Hungarian history.
And it doesn't appear frivolous, obviously: we are so far beyond the national borders that the system of relations is purely a specific informational basis: of an associational and not referential basis, expansion and not marking time, digested nourishment and not constipation.
The information fills a real function: it signifies joy and it causes joy; the artist is liberated, since it is no longer necessary to deny what he knows: he is no longer a slave because he does not know the notion of tradition.
I discuss all of this exhaustively with my father, who, if I remember well, had lacked any sort of internationalism. I am happy, too, that he changed in this way.
This does not concern the motifs, of course, so much as a much more substantially complex view. As if we were surveying an historical or archaeological exhibition.
Bocskai or Bercsényi cast in bronze, or perhaps the boot of János Damjanich. Historical groups of sculptures in the style of Rodin or Miklós Melocco. István Ferenczy's bas-reliefs of the Hungarian Jacobins. And all of this neither pathetic, nor humorous: natural, just as everything is natural in this truly creative – immaterial milieu.
I step into the entrance hall with my father.
Large-scale pictures on the brick wall: bricks painted in utterly pastel colors. The edges of the bricks in the wall do not perfectly match in the plane those of the painted bricks; the deviation is merely a tenth of a millimeter, but it is perceptible, just as the hues of the painted bricks differ from the originals by the smallest margin. In fact, it is not even certain that these paintings are really pictures, given the fact, for instance, that they are transparent; it is nevertheless slightly disturbing that the indentations of the interstices chinked to separate the bricks are spatial, while what we believe to be paintings are really just a single plane.
A Pauerist* piece, says my father, not important.
The entrance hall is the shorter wing of the L-form, and the walls of the long hall behind it are made of glass. It turns out that it is bulletproof glass; one of the artworks is painted onto this glass: the rings of a marksman's target, and about 10-12 meters away, facing it, there are various handguns on a counter. Just then, in the entry hall, Andy Warhol is buying one of the leaflets from Balatonboglár; he is slightly louder than what is sympathetic.
Further stops of the exhibition – a touring exhibition: in July, Richmond (VA) and New Haven (CT).
The lighting in the long hall is ideal: old streetlamps with wide flanges hang from the ceiling, providing a soothing, dim artificial illumination.
We progress between the pictures at an exacting, but rather brisk pace. One can feel that the form of the exhibition space changes proportionally with our velocity. If we increase our speed, it becomes a T-form.
We turn right from the entrance hall, and we regard the right-hand wall all the way through.
Pictures painted concentrically in dark tones hang here; through the darkening of the hues, a map arises: we see spirals. The deepest point of the spiral is the darkest, while it becomes slightly lighter as it goes outwards; the fundamental impression remains, however, the profound darkness. More pictures, one after another: now spirals dilating downward. The precision diminishes from picture to picture; on one or another picture, the white edges of the canvas are visible, and the spiral is painted boldly, but with every assurance of the preceding precise pictures: their communication is even more deliberate, yet more meticulous.
Then there are similar circular paintings, but these produce a voice. Their volume is proportional to the intensity of the viewer's gaze, while their sound quality fluctuates according to the quality of contemplation. There is no cacophony: everyone hears her/his own voice. Shostakovich, I say laughingly, but I am not really sure. There are those who hear the pre-classics. The descriptions are also hanging on the wall: the genre is referred to as “luminophony”. It is an undeniable contradiction that some pictures are continuously broadcast by speakers into the open space.
There are maps of historical events on the walls.
Black charcoal or ink drawings follow, so-called launched forms, which then evolve further on their own. From my father's explanations, it turns out that these works are produced through hypnosis, and it is most important for them to succeed – with concentration – to set in motion the forms applied so that they will be capable of further developing themselves. If a form is once launched successfully, it will then remain in motion infinitely – but only the greatest are capable of this.
The black lines snake and wind, grow thicker and thinner in the pictures.
Here and there are glass paintings on the glass walls, while at other points of the hall unpainted sheets of glass hang.
There are also a few Miklós Halmy-like ancient Hungarian pictures, in wide white frames. For some reason, this frame likewise makes a revelatory impact.
“Borderline fortissimo” – says someone among the viewers, without a doubt a critic – I think. In any case, I feel that this is a pronouncedly precise, even familiar, definition.
Ready Dreams – this is the title of the series.
The path leads out of the hall, i.e., rather the walls of the hall diverge, and they lead onto the rising hill into open space. Thus, the exhibition does not yet reach an end.
The other pictures are on a valley-like steep hillside, as well as a few fractured ancient statues below, in the depths of the valley's chasm.
Just as previously, there are tombstones in this direction; intentionally indistinguishable, which are originals and which are part of the exhibition. But it is quite evident that everything belongs to the exhibition, the space is constructed in its entirety, and it is precisely due to this that the artworks adapt perfectly to their environs. As a viewer, I too become a part of the milieu; I belong automatically to the exhibition.
On the hillside, there is a picture: it is entitled “Extended Dandelion Chain”; I believe, a woodcut – a dreadful Expressionist work: suffering figures multiply. Looking at it for a long time, it turns out that this picture is a film: first, shifting still images flash, then the short, color film begins to roll; Tamás Szentjóby in the starring role of the film advertising the exhibition.
Lying in the grass, I watch the film; the forest is completely dark.
My father already fell behind earlier. The pavilion is not visible from here.
I am afraid that there are snakes between the trees.
(English translation by Adele Eisenstein)
* influenced by Gyula Pauer, one of the pioneers of the Hungarian neo-avantgarde, who has been making “Pseudo”-works for decades – the translator.