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january 25, 2023 - Art City Bologna

Slaven Tolj - Craquelure.Pavo and me

On the occasion of #artcitybologna 2023, the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte(Municipal Art Collection) is happy to host Craquelure. Pavo and me, solo showby Slaven Tolj. The exhibition, curated by Daniele Capra, consists of some fifteen sculptural and documentary artworks and the performanceBologna,February 2023, especially created for the Bologna museum, which will takeplace on Saturday 4 February 4 at 7 pm and Sunday 5 February at 11 am. Theproject is Tolj's first solo exhibition at an Italian public museum.

Craquelure. Pavo and me– whose works range from sculpture to photography,from performance to the site-specific intervention created for the Sala Urbana –takes a bird's-eye view of the Croatian artist's journey, highlighting his ability toposition himself as an interstitial element between inner, interpersonal andpolitical dynamics. Body art and conceptual art are at the core of Tolj’sresearch, whose work is fuelled by a persistent interaction with human andprofessional events experienced firsthand. The artist has remained true to hispractice, from his beginnings in the late 1980s to recent works attesting to theevents following a stroke that undermined his linguistic abilities. The exhibition,which takes the form of a condensed retrospective, is an intimate narrativeunfolded through the personal and historical events that marked Tolj’s life,beginning with the tragic breakup of Yugoslavia. The #show is dedicated tophotographer Pavo Urban, a friend of the artist who died in the war in Dubrovnikon 6 December 1991 – two photographs by Urban, documenting a performanceby Tolj, are part of the exhibition. 

InA tattoo of the logo of Rijeka's Museum of Modern and Contemporary ArtRijeka(2013),the artist gets the museum's logo tattooed on his shoulders – anaction performed right after being appointed director of the MMSU museum.This is both an intimate and political work: the artist demonstrates his personaldedication to his new institutional role, yet, being an artist himself, thisperformative action also aims to highlight how museums can turn into a brandand a yardstick of value of one's work.InCommunity Spirit in Action(1998)Tolj performs in a Zagreb peep showtogether with a stripper, presenting his own body lying completely defenceless,covered by a cloth. The work sheds light on a somewhat paradoxical situation:the presence of a body-artist’s body goes almost unnoticed, while a woman'sbody – although exploited and sexually objectified – is the subject sought anddesired by the viewers’ gaze.The photographUntitled(1997)bears witness to a historical event thatoccurred during the war in former Yugoslavia: the majestic chandeliers of St.Ignatius Church in Dubrovnik were removed to prevent them from falling onpeople due to bombing. The objects were thus replaced with simple industrialbulbs with no identity.In the performanceDubrovnik-Valencia-Dubrovnik(2003)Tolj remainsshirtless after removing a dozen garments, each of which has a black buttonsymbolizing a friend lost in the war. He then tears off one of the buttons anddecides to sew it onto his own skin with needle and thread – as if it were amedal to be pinned to his chest. However, this gesture becomes a sign ofmourning instead, a pain that leaves one naked, and from which one can nolonger free oneself. 

In Tolj's poetics the artwork is an element of mediation and relationshipbetween the artist, his body and the context in which it originated. Through hisown presence, by means of minimal actions conducted with his own body andby displacing small objects, Tolj highlights the cracks and breaks that life andhistory inflict on the fabric of our existence – like thecraquelurethat appears onthe surface of oil paintings as time passes. Without rhetoric, with a scarce yetmuch needed language, the artist interrogates the viewer and invests him withan intense emotional charge, revealing with his works the immense rawness ofreality.

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