Ivan Picelj

New Tendencies


Not on display

Ivan Picelj 1924–2011
Original title
nove tendencije
Screenprint on paper
Support: 570 × 815 mm
Frame: 722 × 968 × 35 mm
Presented by Anja Picelj-Kosak 2016


This is one of four posters by Ivan Picelj in Tate’s collection for the series of New Tendencies exhibitions which took place at the Gallery of Contemporary Art (Galerija suvremene umjetnosti) in Zagreb, in what was then Yugoslavia, between 1961 and 1969. Picelj gave visual expression to the experimental character of the new international movement, known as ‘New Tendencies’, through this series of posters (see Tate P14474P14477). New Tendencies was an international movement of European artists and theorists who sought to establish a position that was distinct from abstract expressionism and tachisme. It advocated a new conception of art experimenting with the visual investigation of surfaces, structures and objects, and a methodically planned artistic practice based on research and the active participant. Artists from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, including Julio Le Parc, Heinz Mack, Piero Manzoni, François Morellet, Otto Piene, Dieter Roth and Günther Uecker, participated alongside Picelj and fellow Croatian artist Julije Knifer (1924–2004) in the first New Tendencies exhibition. Picelj played a pioneering role in the promotion of visual culture in Croatia and former Yugoslavia. As well as his work in painting, print and relief sculpture (see, for example, Surface IX 1962 [Tate T14675] and Suasum 1965 [Tate T14676]), he designed numerous publications, journals and magazines, posters for exhibitions and theatre and created logos and symbols for cultural organisations. From 1956 to 1983 he designed exhibition posters, often incorporating constructivist motifs, for the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb (MSU); from 1960 to 1986 he designed their exhibition catalogues and, until 1998, the institution’s basic typography and logo.

The poster for New Tendencies 1961 (Nove Tendencije, 3 August–14 September 1961) is a silkscreen, with a simple geometric design made up of blocks of light grey, black and dark grey. A landscape orientation poster, the exhibition title is printed in white in a lower case font on a black horizontal band. Basic information about the venue and dates is included on a vertical dark grey ground. The first exhibition contained many artworks which were based on system research and optical research of the surface and the structure of objects.

The designs for the second New Tendencies 2 exhibition poster in 1963 (nove tendencije 2, 1 August–15 September 1963) echoed the seriality which Picelj was experimenting with in his reliefs and serigraphs of the 1960s and similarly reveals his interest in visual perception. The portrait orientation poster contains a repeating shape: an offset white circle set within a black circle. Each white circle is rotated at different angles, creating an illusion of movement. The pattern of shapes is printed on a gold ground, but also existed in different iterations on a white or silver ground. The lowercase text was printed in white on a black horizontal band in the lower half of the poster.

The poster for New Tendency 3 (nova tendencija 3), which took place from 13 August to 3 October, 1965, contains a repeated pattern ‘nt3’ in alternating green and blue colours on a red ground, the contrasting colours creating a vibrating optical effect. The exhibition, which focused on the relationship between cybernetics and art, included lumino-kinetic objects by Vjenceslav Richter, Aleksandar Srnec and Picelj himself.

The poster for Tendencies 4 in 1969 (tendencije 4, 5 May to 30 June 1969) reflects the move towards computer-generated graphics, information theory and conceptual art through its use of a black and white dot matrix pattern. The dot pattern of the poster was designed on the base of a collage of punched paper tape. In 1968 Picilj, in collaboration with Vladimir Bonacic, created an electronic (and computer programmed) object titled T-4. Based on Picelj’s poster design, the letters ‘t4t4t4’ lit up at the top of the object, point after point and from left to right. When the formation of symbols was complete, the lamps went out and the cycle began again. On the remainder of the object’s surface a rapidly changing pattern of lights blinked, which was controlled by a random generator that Bonacic had installed.

During his lifetime, Picelj created some five hundred posters, around one hundred prints and eleven portfolios using the printing technique of serigraphy – or screen printing – a technique also favoured by fellow Croatian artists Julije Knifer, Juraj Dobrovic (born 1928), Miroslav Šutej (1936–2005), Eugen Feller (born 1942) and Aleksandar Srnec (1924–2010). His first portfolio of serigraphs, entitled Picelj 1957, included compositions of irregular geometrical shapes which related formally to his non-figurative oil on canvas paintings of the 1950s. This portfolio marked an important shift in Picelj’s practice from individual works (paintings) to seriality and multiplication facilitated by the serigraphy printing technique. He went on to create a number of signature op-art graphic silkscreen portfolios including Oeuvre programmee No.1 1966. By the early 1960s Picelj had moved away from easel painting to focus on relief-objects, graphic art and design, using the medium of print as his manifesto of new art, one aim of which was for art to reach the broadest audience. Collaboration with craftsmen, artists and critics, and the principle of collectivism, was also essential to Picelj’s mode of working.

Further reading
Branislav Dimitrijevic, ‘A Brief Narrative of Art Events in Serbia after 1948’, in Irwin (ed.), East Art Map, London 2006.
Margit Rosen (ed.), A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s Arrival in Art. New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961–1973, Karlsruhe, Cambridge, MA and London 2011.
Merci Picelj. From the Ivan Picelj Archives and Library, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb 2014.

Juliet Bingham
March 2016

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