One of the main subjects of this year’s Art Market Budapest is contemporary Russian art, and András Böröcz’s exhibition — as well as his performance on October 4th for the ART.RUS cultural festival — offers commentary on the work of El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich, two titans of 20th century avant-garde Russian art.
Well-known for his wooden pencil wunderkammer box stories, Böröcz here casts in the leading role matzo, the sacred Jewish food, simultaneously calling to mind Suprematism’s main motif (the square), Malevich’s White on White, geometric found art, mass production and family history. In his work, the square-shaped matzos, the unleavened bread made without yeast, is first and foremost a reminder of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The Three Matzos installation, consisting of props taken from Böröcz’s Roll of the Dice performance, also offers a nod to Mallarme’s poem of the same name. His Homage to El Lissitzky collage series comprises found objects (paper clip, comb, slate), carefully chosen and assembled on square boards, whose circles, lines and arcs give the work its Pre-Construction character.
For his The Ten Plagues series, Böröcz works from Lissitzky’s Haggadah illustrations, created by the artist for Heinrich Heine’s “The Rabbi of Bacharach.” The series offers ten scenes depicting the eternal history of Jewish suffering and connecting it to a children’s song traditionally sung at Passover dinner. He expands on this idea in Cattle Cars 3 and 4, toy-like kinetic wooden sculptures that at once evoke the noisemakers typical of the Purim holiday and the history of the Holocaust. The white marble stones are a reminder of the unwritten Jewish burial tradition of placing stones on the grave, while the shoes of various sizes locked in the cattle cars carry the weight of collective and personal memory. The etchings Balancing Act, Memory of a Domestic Pig Slaughter and Hephaestus - created this year in Johannesburg - also deal with the subject of Jewish suffering, mixing the artists’ childhood memories with Lissitzky’s message of the fate of the Jewish people.
As usual, we can draw comfort from Böröcz’s seemingly boundless ability to depict the absurdities of everyday life in work that layers meaning upon meaning and offers limitless interoperation no matter how deeply we look.