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Marij Pregelj: Document of Truth, Čolaković LegacyProgramme | 04.03.2016
Exhibition curator: Svetlana Mitić, Senior Curator
The exhibition Marij Pregelj: Document of Truth presents the paintings created between 1947 and 1967 by Slovenian artist Marij Pregelj (8 August 1913, Kranj – 18 March 1967, Ljubljana). The paintings are part of the Vasko and Zlata Pregelj Legacy. The legacy carries the names of the artist’s son and wife, and it was given to the Museum in 1986 after the death of the artist’s wife, according to the wishes of the artist himself, by which it was fairly bequeathed to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade and the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana. Besides the paintings, the Museum of Contemporary Art also received 123 graphics and 22 watercolour, gouache and pastel paintings. A segment of the Legacy, the graphics, were displayed at the 1988 exhibition at the Milica Zorić and Rodoljub Čolaković Gallery-Legacy.
Marij Pregelj is a Slovenian painter and graphics artist; an artist with a very specific iconography and ultimately personal symbolism, who’s creative contribution it is not possible to omit when considering Slovenian and Yugoslav art of the second half of the last century. His father Ivan Pregelj was a Slovenian expressionist writer and the fact that he grew up in a literary family is important to creating a comprehensive understanding of his life and art biography. He was educated at the Academy of Fine Art in Zagreb where he graduated under the mentorship of Professor Ljuba Babić. His first appearance was at the exhibition of the Independent in 1937, organised at Jakopičev Dom (The Home of Jakopič) in Ljubljana and his solo exhibiting started in 1950. Pregelj’s paintings are a reaction to existential challenges of contemporary man, which this artist expresses with “Homeric magnitude” using a strong gesture and expressive colour range. Pregelj is the creator of many series, always new iconographic traits and formal variations. The creative oeuvre of Marij Pregelj is from its very beginnings permeated by observing man’s existence, its interpretation, but first and foremost its psychological and psychoanalytical complexity. Pregelj’s overall body of work, especially the last creative decade is dominated by the human figure in all its iconographic and symbolical complexity: man’s experience of birth, man as bearer of death, as a figure sitting at the table, as Orante female figure, as corpse at the table or crucified form on the cross.Pregelj’s artistic expression is an authentic and autochthonous phenomenon occurring during the evolution of socialist modernism and is closest in nature to Slovenian dark modernism (Tomaž Brejc), and on the wider European plane, Pregelj’s art corresponds to the highest reaches of the last generation of modernist painters.
He exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1954 and 1956, at the Tokyo Biennale in 1955, the Guggenheim International in New York in 1958 and the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1963. He was a professor of painting at the Academy of Fine Art in Ljubljana and president of the Association of Fine Art Artists of Yugoslavia (1960-1964). He received numerous awards, among them the Golden Plaque at the Second Triennial of Yugoslav Art in Belgrade, 1964, Prešern’s Award in 1958 and 1964, and Jakopič’s Award in 1969.
The Paintings Collection of the MCA, besides the Legacy, includes also 12 works of this artist which were previously acquired for the Museum collections, including especially important works belonging to Pregelj’s mature opus: Fantastic Feast (1966) and Diptyhon I, Diptyhon II (1976).