Homo Lignum/The Assembled Man
20 June - 27 August 2023
The exhibition focuses on wood sculpture and primarily showcases works from the collection of the Sofia City Art Gallery. Its main objective is to explore the human body as an amalgamation of organic matter, susceptible to the effects of time and systematic mechanical interventions. In Bulgarian art, wood is not commonly utilized as a preferred sculptural material due to its inability to meet the expectations of durability and memorial longevity associated with monolithic structures. Consequently, wood has assumed a peripheral role in the works of our most prominent sculptors. While Ivan Lazarov experimented with this material in relief, Lyubomir Dalchev actively worked with wood; however, his groundbreaking works, unique for their time, have mostly been destroyed or lost. The few sculptures created by the painter Iliya Petrov are predominantly made from wood.
The works produced by subsequent generations of artists reflect upon transience, perishability, the vulnerability of matter, and frequently reference the sacred and nature. In this context, the wood experiments in Bulgarian art are connected to the European avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century. They occupy the boundary zones between the so-called “fine” and “applied” arts of the 1960s, which never attained the status of official salon or engaged art. Thus, the trajectory towards plein-air experiments, outdoor installations, and interactivity, which emerged in the early days of contemporary Bulgarian art during the mid-1980s, was foreshadowed by artists such as Lyubomir Dalchev, Venko Kolev, and Marin Varbanov. Although their contributions were often confined to a small and relatively concealed circle, these artists played a significant role in expanding the concept of sculpture in Bulgaria. The vibrant artistic environment of the 1980s, along with the wood sculpture plein-air workshops held in Yasna Polyana and Strandja-Sakar, were instrumental in the development of contemporary art, but regrettably, their impact is scarcely evident in public collections.
The exhibition at the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery does not seek to categorize the works based on their materials. Instead, it delves into the semantic and symbolic characteristics they imbue in the artwork. It explores their historical context and relevance through a belated avant-garde gesture of utopian projection, which bridges the gap between the wooden mechanisms of the Renaissance era and today’s pressing concerns of climate and ecology. The exhibition showcases 15 works by 11 artists from various generations – Thomas Kochev, Bozhidar Kozarev, Alyosha Kafejiisky, Boris Gondov, Galin Malakchiev, Lyuben Kostov, Pencho Dobrev, Sergey Yanakiev, Pavlin Radevsky, Nikolay Marinov, Vitali Halvadzhiev, and Liliana Marinova.