Ion Bitzan (1924-1997) is considered one of the most important names among the Romanian visual artists, who asserted themselves between 1960 and 1970. He was a subtle and versatile artist and, while successfully going through various styles, concepts and ideologies he became quite successful both at home and abroad. His oeuvre, counting well over 1200 works, bears witness to a remarkable technical intelligence and ability and to his mastery of the most diverse media: painting, collage, etching, ceramics, objects and installations, grouped in cycles which span an amazingly wide range of topics.
Thinking in cycles is actually a feature of his mature work-phase, mainly after 1967, as Bitzan first took up experimenting with etching techniques and with abstract artistic expression under the influence of direct contact to the newest Western art movements during his participation in the Venice Biennale of 1964.
It is only recently, with the necessary benefit of some historical distance, that a new approach to, and a re-evaluation of Ion Bitzan’s entire work is being undertaken.
The exhibition gathers some of Bitzan’s abstract work series from the early seventies, when the artist enjoyed a growing international presence, and sets them in a new context from a contemporary perspective. From a curatorial perspective that takes into account the experimental impulse that the artist gave to these series of works, Plan B presents woodcuts, monotypes and object-installations, accompanied by a selection of related photographs and documents.
The large group of abstract Compositions Bitzan created between 1968 and 1973 is a homage to the historical Avant-garde, both in formal terms and through the titling of works. His deference may be understood as an attempt to adopt, and adapt to the Neo-Avant-garde movements that had so far defined the international art scene at the time, but also as an effect of the re-evaluation of abstract art which first became possible in Romania after the 1967 Brancusi Colloquium.
These approximately 100 compositions – woodcuts and monotypes on chipboard, wood and metal plates – can be clearly distributed into series of works. Some bear titles given by the author, for instance the Cadences cycle (Cadente, 1968-1969) or the Inseparables cycle (Inseparabile, 1969- 1970). Others were assigned to a group or other after research into Bitzan’s work, according to the alternative titles the artist himself noted on some works and from a simple description of their appearance: Grey Drawings (Desene gri, 1970-1971), Boxes (Cutii, 1970), Strings (Snururi, 1970- 1971), White and Coloured Pipes (Tuburi albe si colorate, 1970-1972), Pink Drawings (Desene roz, 1971-1972), White Squares (Patrate albe, 1973). The lineage of, and the demarcation line between groups are not clearcut, because the themes and shapes are interrelated and overlapping. They also relate to works from other cycles and are echoed by three-dimensional objects and installations they belong together with as a composite work.
The choice of works Plan B made for their Berlin exhibition showcases the group of grey Drawings, earliest specimens of which were displayed in 1970 at the Panorama Mesdag Gallery in The Hague. They were at the time accompanied by the installations with soft objects, Soft Machine, which the artist described as studies of a falling object1. Those plastic tubes half-filled with straw, reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg’s Pop Art aesthetics, were themselves a source for shapes Bitzan used in later works.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)