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Aesthetics in the shadow of politics

Surnaturalism and magical socialist realism in Hungary in the early Sixties

Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author: Sándor Hornyik

After 1956, thanks to the political thaw a modernization of the Hungarian canon of socialist realism took place. However, the modern and nationally oriented view of socialist culture was confronted with an ideologically motivated fear of nationalism and bourgeois revisionism, which also fueled official hostility towards the forces of popular naturalism and ‘decadent’ surrealism. Consequently, in the early 1960s a significant part of Hungarian art criticism was still dominated by the dated political aesthetics of Zhdanov that fiercely offended new realist tendencies, like the work of Tibor Csernus and his followers. One of their critics labeled the new realism of Csernus ‘surnaturalism,’ others supported their painting under the umbrella terminology of ‘magical realism.’ The paper investigates the different aesthetic ideologies and interpretations concerning such artists as László Lakner, László Gyémánt, György Korga, Gyula Konkoly, and Csernus himself. Beside the analysis of their avant-garde, ‘formalist’ sources, the paper also attempts to shed light on their realism, based on the classical figurative tradition of painting from Piero della Francesca to Edouard Manet. Beyond the more or less ironic use of the cold war imagery, this ‘traditionalism’ could even legitimate their ‘decadent’ formalism. However, their secret classic and modern references and their unique illusionism or a kind of magical socialist realism have never got the official stamp of approval.

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Sputnik versus Apollo

Science, technology and the Cold War in the Hungarian visual arts, 1957–1975

Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author: Sándor Hornyik

In 1957, when the Soviet Union sent into orbit Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in history, the Cold War stepped into a new phase; the Space Age began. In 1961 came another victory: the first man in space was also communist. In this regard, the Sixties were about the nuclear arms race that meant a scientific and technological competition as well. Then came Apollo 11, the spaceship and the lunar module, which proved unquestionably that the West had won this war. This paper discusses the Hungarian artistic reception of this scientific and technological war. Some artists served well the aims of the Eastern Bloc; others had their own political and aesthetic motivation. Some used the official visual culture; others tried to transform it. Describing the scientifically and technologically oriented visual arts (mainly painting) of the Long Sixties (1957–1973), I will focus mainly on one topic: aviation and military technology. Besides, I intend to deconstruct the apparently plausible narrative that claims that the early heroism (late Fifties) of the Soviet technological and military supremacy turned into a resigned acceptance of defeat in the early Seventies

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Deconstructing dreamworlds

Foreword to the Long Sixties research project

Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae
Author: Sándor Hornyik
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