Ivan Picelj - Artist in front of his posters for New Tendencies exhibitions - Photo Credits Art And Science Meeting

Ivan Picelj

Croatia 1924 - 2011

Sculpture, Op Art, Painting

Ivan Picelj
Ivan Picelj
May 18, 2016
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

Ivan Picelj was a Yugoslavian painter, sculptor and graphic designer who was one of the first artists from the Balkans to fully accept some aspects of the modern Avant Garde ways of creating art. He is celebrated for seeking the perfect relationship between perception and knowledge, as well as for his deep dedication to rigorous repetition that was the backbone of his artwork. As was clued above, the artist was involved in various mediums and artistic practices including painting, sculpture, architecture and graphic design of posters, catalogues and magazines. Shortly put, Ivan Picelj significantly enhanced the visual culture of Yugoslavia.

Ivan Picelj -Composition IV, 1957 - Croatian page gallery
Ivan Picelj – Composition IV, 1957

Picelj Associations And Connections

Ivan Picelj was born on the 28th July of 1924, in a place called Okučani, Croatia. He gained his formal art education by studying at the Zagreb’s Academy of Fine Arts between the years of 1943 and 1946. Although he will later prove to be almost completely self-taught, Ivan did gain some valuable foundations from Zagreb’s University upon which he would later be able to build his artistic career. Not that close to graduating, Picelj abandoned his formal art studies and got involved in some experimental research far away from the official art language of that time. Picelj’s first appearance at the art scene came just after the end of The Second World War when he showed his fascination with design and plastic thinking in 1948 while designing exhibition premises in Zagreb. The artist was always a huge fan of graphic design as this sort of work seemed to interest him greatly. Ivan designed many books and posters during his career – the artist actually published four graphic maps: 8 seriographies (1957), Oeuvre programmeé (1966), Cyclophoria (1971) and Géométrie élémentaire (1973). Picelj even organized the first industrial design exhibition in Zagreb in 1955. Picelj is arguably most famous for being one of the founders of the Exat 51 – a group that lasted for six years between 1950-1956 and consisted of the architects Vjenceslav Richter, Bernardo Bernardi, Zdravko Bregovac, Božidar Rašica and Vladimir Zaharović, as well as the painters Vlado Kristl and Aleksandar Srnec. This organization was the first Yugoslavian abstract art group that advocated the synthesis of all visual arts, not only basing its work on traditional concepts. However, Exat 51 is not the only group Picelj was a key part of. Ivan was also a member of the Industrial Design Studio and he was a co-founder of the New Tendencies movement. The New Tendencies with Ivan at its head really promoted Zagreb as a centre of new European Constructivism and Op art, bringing much attention to a city that was the second art center of Yugoslavia and was trying to seem competitive to the scene of Belgrade.

Ivan Picelj - Untitled Lithographie - Croatian page gallery
Ivan Picelj – Oeuvre Programmée No. 1

The Grids, Shapes And The Beuty Of Discipline

As you can very well see for yourself, Picelj was an extremely active individual and has contributed greatly to the growth of Balkan’s art. Picelj is often praised for the development of a specific variation of geometric abstraction in Yugoslavian painting. Ivan chose to use primary colors and intentionally reduced the shapes and form down to simple geometric elements. Over time, Picelj established an instantly recognizable style in which he turned to multiplicating basic plastic units within a grid. A lot of his artistic developments are connected with Ivan’s visits to Paris and the time he spent collaborating with the Denise René Gallery. Besides his brilliantly designed paintings, Ivan also created many sculptures, usually in wood or in metal. Most of his works from this medium were reliefs, both of the shallow and deep kind. Perhaps the highlights of Picelj international career were the opportunities to design the Yugoslavian pavilions for national and global exhibitions, representing his country’s art scene in the process. Since we’re at the particular subject, Ivan has held many exhibitions in his time, both of the solo and group type. His works are permanently displayed at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, the Muzeum Sztuki Lodz in Lodz, the International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana and, most impressively, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Most of Ivan Picelj’s work was based around ideas of Op Art and repetition

Ivan Picelj - Oeuvre Programmée No. 1 (detail), 1966 - Croatian page gallery
Ivan Picelj – Oeuvre Programmée No. 1 (detail), 1966

A Great Contributor To Yugoslavian Art Legacy

Unfortunately, Ivan Picelj passed away during the autumn of 2011. But, what he left behind is a lifetime of dedicated creating and participating in all sorts of artistic changes that occurred in Yugoslavia during the short time this country existed. Through his series of programmed works exploring visual perception, mathematical rhythms and movements of particles, Ivan Picelj stands as one of the most characteristic artists to have ever come out of Croatia. He is also one of the rare artists coming from the Balkans that has fully adopted the avant-garde way of thinking and conceptualizing pieces of art.

Featured Image: Ivan Picelj – Artist in front of his posters for New Tendencies exhibitions – Photo Credits Art And Science Meeting
All Images Photo Credits Ivan Picelj

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015New Art For New SocietyWroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wroclaw Group
2015The The Forest UnbowedeMuseum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb Group
2015Rendezvous der Länder - Neuhängung der Sammlung Peter C. Ruppert – Konkrete Kunst in Europa nach 1945Museum im Kulturspeicher, Würzburg Group
2014Histories of the Post-Digital: 1960s and 1970s Media Art SnapshotsAkbank Art Center, Istanbul Group
2014CrossingsInternational Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC), Ljubljana Group
2013Koło, Kropka, Okrąg z kolekcji galerii 72Muzeum Chelmskie w. Chelmie, Chełm Group
2012Ivan PiceljGalerie Denise René, Rive Gauche, Paris Solo
2012The Mystery SpotFondation d´entreprise Ricard, Paris Group
2012Ulmske variacije – from the art collection of KD Group d.d.P74 Gallery, Ljubljana Group
2012Apstrakcija - Modernizam I SuvremenostGalerija Klovićevi dvori, Zagreb Group
2012Arte Programmata e Cinetica. da Munari a Biasi a Colombo e...Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM) , Rome Group
2011Scenes from Zagreb: ArtistsMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, NY Group
2010Iveković - Maljković - PiceljGallery Nova, Zagreb Group
2009In The Art Situation After 2000.Contemporary Gallery Zrenjanin, Zrenjanin Group
2008PiceljGalerie Denise René, Rive Gauche, ParisSolo
2008As soon as I open my eyes I see a film Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw Group
2008The Rational Eye - Geometric, Optical, Kinetic and Programmed ArtInternational Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC), Ljubljana Group
2008bit international. [Nove] tendencije | Computer und visuelle Forschung | Zagreb 1961–1973Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Group
200727th Biennial of Graphic Arts - The Unbound Eyes of AnxiousnesInternational Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC), Ljubljana Group
2007bit international – [Nove] Tendencije - Neue Galerie GrazUniversalmuseum Joanneum, Graz Group
2007Avangardne tendencije u HrvatskojGalerija Klovićevi dvori, Zagreb Group
2007Die Neuen Tendenzen. Eine europäische Kuenstlerbewegung 1961-1973Leopold Hoesch Museum, Düren Group
2006Ivan PiceljGalerija Rigo, Novigrad Solo
2006Sztuka Optyczna i Kinetyczna ze Zbiorow Muzeum ChelmskiegoMuzeum Nadwislanskie, Kazimierz Dolny Group
2006Die Neuen TendenzenMuseum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt Group
2005Prague Biennale 2Karlin Hall, Prague Group
200540 grafica opera primaMilan Dobes Museum, Bratislava Group
200422 from the future for the future of vukovarMilan Dobes Museum, Bratislava Group
2003Ivan Picelj - Graphic Art Opus 1957-2003International Centre of Graphic Arts (MGLC), LjubljanaSolo
2000Art in Central Europe - 1949 - 1999Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona Group
2000Aspect - Positions - 50 Years of Art in Central Europe 1949-99Museum of Contemporary Art - Budapest, Budapest Group
1991Sammlung Lenz Schönberg. ... die Kunst von innen bittend ...Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck Group
1970Ivan PiceljGalerija Umjetnina Split, Split Solo
1969Ivan PiceljGalleria del Cavallino, Venice Solo
1969Yugoslavia: A ReportMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, NY Group
1965The Responsive EyeThe Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD Group
1965The Responsive EyeNorton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA Group
1965The Responsive EyeSeattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA Group
1965The Responsive EyeSaint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO Group
1965The Responsive EyeMoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY Group
1964Mouvement 2Galerie Denise René - Rive Gauche, Paris Group
1962Anno 62 : grafiek, plastiek, tekeningenGalerie 't Venster, Rotterdam Group
1961Vojin Bakic, Ivan Picelj, Aleksandar SrnecDrian Galleries, London Group
1960Slikarstvo Poslijeratne GeneracijeThe Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Group
1960Bakic, Picelj, SrnecDrian Galleries, London Group
1959L’art abstrait et l’avant-garde en YougoslavieGalerie Denise René - Rive Gauche, Paris Group
1957Izložba Suvremene Hrvatske Primijenjene UmjetnostiThe Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik Group
1957Iz fundusa Gradske galerije suvremene umjetnostiMuseum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb Group