Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ICON: Retrospective

September 19th - November 19th, 2006
Curators: Mikke Susanto & M. Dwi Marianto

Jalan Pekapalan No 7, Alun-alun Utara, Yogyakarta
Phone +62 274 7161188, 419999
Fax +62 274 412023
Email [1] jogjagallery@yahoo.co.id
[2] info@jogja-gallery.com

Jogja Needs More Icons than What It Currently Has
(A Curatorial Introduction)
By Mikke Susanto

One day just before I began this writing, a friend told me about the currently depressing situation in the art market. Its hard to sell paintings now; great names cannot warrant your investment, he remarked. Then I asked him why it is so. He told me that the great number of auction houses in Indonesia contributes much to the sad situation. Another factor has been the powerful current of Chinese painting sweeping Indonesia lately.

My friend only quoted those two reasons, but I know there are still others. Anyway, he is more intensely involved in art market. I asked further, Then, what can we do?
My question generated a long discussion leading to some more focused conclusions. My friend mentioned the need for some professional attitude in artists and art workers. It is believed a professional attitude may help the existent infrastructure to achieve its balance (though only to some extent) so that it ensures the continual cycle of our art. It should be noticed that the paradigm of market within these two decades has been highly predominant in art discourse. In the mean time, the professional attitude for maintaining the production of high quality works will enable an artist to survive. In addition, art workers strength of mind to offer high quality exhibitions is important.

What is just presented is but one of the issues of interrelations between art and non-art that will continuously characterize art in Indonesia. However, the (economic) issue of market represents just one of the things that have implications for the emergence of discourse, the narrative as well as nature of our art. In closer examination, various other issues such as political, social, cultural and technological ones naturally bring about various subjects that sometimes appear freshening, confusing, and at the same time saddening in the development of our art.

I also regard my friends remark as exemplifying the situation of turmoil in art. Of course, it provides just one among the many turbulences known in Indonesia so far. And I agree with him that it represents a test case for artists to prove their existence as strong, able and pioneering figures in their field. It is not unlikely that such testing blows and situations may one day make an iconic figure out of an artist.

On Icons
Then, what is an icon? And what is the purpose in presenting it? Dictionaries give various meanings of the word. In general, icon is equivalent to the notion of image or portrait in that it comes from the Greek word ikon that means image or portrait. Alternatively, icon has the sense of sign that takes part in the natures of objects, or, a sign the quality of which mirrors its objects and invoke analogous sensations in mind owing to the similarities.1 In still another perspective, icon signifies a person or an object that has consistence, faithfulness, and great attentiveness an idol.

The word icon as used in the current exhibition heading refers to the notion of image or portrait of the situation generated by something (a work), someone (an artist) or a phenomenon (an art exhibition or program). On a certain level, the image or portrait of something has the overall signification of striking models/qualitative characters, reflections of the objects qualities and the representation of the dominant atmosphere of a given time and space. Everyone and everything (including works and phenomena) presented in this exhibition clearly has the quality of provoking further sensations (discussions).

It is likely that their prominence implies correlating entities. Such correlations are important since works, persons or phenomena rendered as icons inseparably imply the events, problems, and polemics that go with them. The correlations are observable as we go further in examining non-art aspects that crisscross the circumstances of an artist or work. That is why this exhibition doesnt only unveil one given aspect of the correlations. Various non-art aspects that include political, economic, market and technological ones, among others, provide the starting point in reviewing the roles and existence of the individual participants that have led to their positions as subjects of actual discussions.

Different, characteristic as well as convincing mindsets prevailing in given works, artists and phenomena surely generate the iconic quality. I intend to relate more-or-less closely the iconic quality and the notion of the avant-garde3 if only in a restricted scope. I also bear in mind that the temporal and spatial context this exhibition covers doesnt directly refer to that of Western Modern art or Western avant-garde but, rather, to that of the existing development in Jogja art. The perspective of proximity between iconic quality and the notion of avant-garde doesnt necessarily make this exhibition an exhibition of Jogjas avant-garde artists.

At least this exhibition focuses on a field of diverse ideas that have various characteristic qualities, the grouping of persons that take record of the times, and persons so intensely working on their creativity that it is able to surface convincingly. This exhibition is for the public to know further how certain figures have struggled to help this city thrive. With their contributions to the citys glory, dont they (Affandi, Soedjojono, Fadjar Sidik, Widayat or others) deserve the same status as heroes as enjoyed by those fighting in battlefields?

Moreover, as currently the discourse on originality and novelty is no longer up to date since losing its ground for historical justification, it takes other kinds of efforts for works, artists and phenomena to become iconic. In this regard, the other and appropriate feature of an icon lies in being the collective representation of a given time and space. And this exhibition presents a variety of strong-character works, artists and artistic pursuits of certain periods as collective representations of art in Jogja in the past and present.

I therefore conceive this exhibition as an attempt at creating a desirable situation while providing a forum to appreciate the strong intents, consistence, and personal as well as collective stances in the pursuit of ideals and creativeness. Naturally, Jogja needs all this in order that avant-garde mindsets could inspire creative works.
On Jogja
This exhibition has its historical dimension. To be specific, this is a retrospective exhibition in that it was deliberately set chronologically. This is an exhibition that puts up works, artists and phenomena that provide particular marks in and for their respective eras, with the addition of new works representing the developments of them. In its semi-documentary wrapping, the exhibition is expected to be capable of explaining the influences and relationships on and among works-artists-phenomena in their respective settings as presented.

Yet, why Jogja? Firstly, the exhibition wants to assess the extent of development already taking place in the city. Does the development move toward significant variants of ideas, innovations of mediums, or does it only provide repetitive occasions? This also implies tracing the nature and characteristics of Jogjas contemporary art currently. The second reason has something to do with Jogja as one among the centers and major contributors of development in Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific. It is important to discuss the matter and take it as the measurement in defining Jogjas positions from a certain point in the past through now. Thirdly, as already touched upon, this exhibition reveals the direct and indirect interrelationships of art and non-art issues. They include, for example, the extent of artists bearings on the local, national and international life in terms of politics as well as socio-cultural, economic and technological concerns, among others.
Musing on art that takes place in Jogja gives out distinctive notions indeed. In this respect the reading of one event to another requires highly varied approaches. As part of the curatorial backdrop, here the (chronological) development of works, artists and phenomena up to now is presented in brief. More details are provided in Yogyakarta Art Chronicle section.

In the era of national revolution, the Japanese occupation, or precisely when Jogja was the countrys capital, the notion of modern art in Jogja was already launched. The sense is that starting from the 1940s Jogja has maintained its enthusiasm in the field. Overall, the politics of revolution and nationalism was predominant in the thoughts of artists and their works then. In Jogja, Soedjojono the Father of Indonesian Modern Painting with his group Seniman Indonesia Muda (SIM) made many monumental works that inspired many other artists of that time. Soedjojonos works like Mengungsi, Kawan-Kawan Revolusi, and Sekko2 all from the period when the artist lived in Jogja have remained in the States collection, thanks to the late President Soekarno, as significant paintings.

The year of 1950 saw the founding of the first art institute, ASRI (Akademi Seni Rupa Indonesia) in Jogja. The decade also saw the emergence of Pelukis Rakyat group of painters (1947-late 1959) led by Hendra Gunawan (who was a lecturer at the ASRI art institute). This group generated notable artists like Rustamadji, Edhi Sunarso (a sculptor well known for his monumental works in Jakarta and his close association with Bung Karno then president of Indonesia) and Fadjar Sidik (who exercised a significant influence on ASRI students). During the period (between the 1950s through early 1960s, to be more specific) political paradigms had intense effects on many artists. The Indonesian Communist Party with its LEKRA cultural organization was the most influential, followed by Lesbumi (affiliated with the Islamic NU), LKN (affiliated with the nationalist PNI) and some others. Various images depicting political visions provide the main themes of artists works then. The decade produced so many paintings of the Realist tradition with a prevalent political atmosphere.

By the end of the decade Trisno Sumardjo published his essay that triggered animated discussions the repercussions of which are still felt today.3 Though Trisno Sumardjo doesnt make any direct reference and his writing doesnt concern the issue of Jogja, the essay provoked polemics around the antagonism between the Bandung and the Jogja camps, though in practice the arguments had no significant effects on the thoughts of Jogja artists. However, the essay contributes additional information on the particular potency of Jogja (in terms of populist realism tradition) at that time.

In the mid-1960s the depoliticizing of art took place.4 This depoliticizing followed the 1965s political change as the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) failed to take control of President Soekarnos administration. A military movement brought Soeharto on stage as the next Indonesian president and he soon banned Communism. In Jogja the depoliticizing entailed a shift from the Realist tradition to some socio-cultural movement involving, for example, traditionalism. Among the reasons for the shift was artists political fear of being labeled communists. The period also saw the emergence of the movement or style of lyricism that gave priority to elements of personal feelings as well as the development and elaboration of mediums in art.

In the 1970s, various ideas developed further. Political issues were no longer the roots of artists works. In the early phase of its rule, Soehartos regime granted opportunities and freedom for the fostering of spirits, varying ideas, and mediums of artistic pursuits. Interestingly, early in the decade, in 1974, came up a statement against the depoliticizing introduced earlier. At the 1974 Jakarta Biennale at the TIM Art Center in Jakarta, the Black December declaration was launched.5 The declaration offered resistance to establishment, asserted the need for diversity (that included social, cultural., political and economic orientations), and made recommendation for creativity and the search for new perspectives. Anyway, by the end of the decade artists and their works had to encounter troubles like the arrest of painter Hardi at the second exhibition of Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (New Art Movement) at TIM Art Center Jakarta in 1979 and the abandonment of Kepribadian Apa (What Personality) exhibition at Seni Sono Gallery, Jogja, 1979, by the local police.

During the decade of 1980s through the early 1990s, art in Jogja was mostly characterized by creative ideas regarding mediums, antagonism around isms, and the introduction of the art market institution that was gaining strength as demonstrated in the painting boom closing the 1980s. The topic of painting boom did not seem to influence only the artists (with the notion of instant wealth, for example) but also had the effects of the clustering, confinement, centralization and impoverishment of works of art in the hands of few collectors. 6
Another point that has to be mentioned is, of course, a big event known as Reformasi in Indonesian politics. This 1998 event with all its excesses provides artists with a lot of inspirations. At least, artists role in fostering critical attitudes concerning governments policies, social decadence, and violence (both physical and structural) provides the theme for their works. Djoko Pekiks painting, Agung Kurniawans drawing, Hanura Hoseas painting, FX Harsonos performance and Moelyonos installation are the decades most striking visual events. In the historical perspective, they form particular marks in the development of art in Jogja.
By the end of the 1990s through the early 2000 the existence and capacities of Jogja artists in the development of art already reached the international stage.7 As a result, global issues arrived to contribute impetus and inspire artists living in Jogja. The 2000s has so far seen conceptual dynamic that involves ideas around the adoption of technological mediums (the audio-visual, disks, electromagnetic waves, cellular phone and web), social challenges such as urban issues (including public art movement seemingly incessant these last three to five years), public art, globalization, the post-tradition movement (batik exploration and the empowerment of traditions), natural disasters and other big issues like the unveiling of past histories; they all often feature at national and international art events and forums.

The Last Section & Challenging Question
This exhibition only offers a slice of the development in the long series of events in art in Jogja. To be specific, the exhibition only covers the duration from the 1970s through today. The 1970s is taken as the beginning for the purpose of reconsidering the issue of diverse ideas and mediums as well as the relational dimension that goes with it. With the Black December affair and Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru movement, as triggered by the esthetic and political concerns of a number of art students from the STSRI ASRI in Jogja and the Art Department of Art at Bandung Institute of Technology in Bandung, the concern over discourse found a place in history. This was to be followed by the decade where the influence of market began playing a highly significant role in the realm of art in Jogja.

All this doesnt only involve discourses and ideas of creative deconstruction; since the 1970s the story of the ups-and-downs of the issue of mediums in art has been interesting in terms of its effects. Market also responds keenly to this issue of mediums. In addition to painting and sculpture, the entrance of photography, installation art, contemporary craft, performance art, comics, mural and new media art and through art projects has led to the emergence of markets for those categories of works.

The heading here I deem appropriate to mark the establishment of a gallery dedicated to art, which is JOGJA Gallery. At least, the Gallery can provide information for the public of Jogja about one among the cultural and historical heritages once characterizing the city. I realize very well, however, that not only these 59 artists (with their 70 works) invited to this exhibition we can call icons. There are many others besides them as of course those presented here result from the subjective selection of a curator.

At least, with this exhibition Jogja Gallery could inspire further cultural tracing of the city. And it is all possible that this exhibition may assert (or re-question) the existence of Jogja as a city of culture, city of arts, and city of artists as it is often dubbed. Absolutely, this exhibition is not a mere romanticism because behind all this looms a question (as closing and a challenge to all art workers): will a city as reputable as Jogja keep its ability to generate new histories, new paradigms, new creativity and also new icons amid the weakening market as my friend remarks?

Lets take notes and stand witness. +++
1. Some of the first generation modern painters like Soedjojono, Affandi, Hendra Gunawan, Handrio and Suromo animated Jogja with dynamic frictions that led to the emergence of SIM and Pelukis Rakyat groups.

2. Stories around these works are in Mia Bustam, Sudjojono dan Aku, Pustaka Utan Kayu, Jakarta, 2006.

3. Trisno Sumardjo, Bandung Mengabdi Laboratorium Barat, Majalan Siasat, 5 Desember 1954.

4. Jim supangkat, op.cit, p. 18.

5. This statement was a reaction to the judges decision at the Pameran Besar Seni Lukis Indonesia (Jakarta Biennal) of 1974 that enthroned the works of Aming Prayitno, Widayat (their works are included in this ICON exhibition) AD Pirous, Irsam, dan Abas Alibasyah, which represent the evolving new paradigm (then) following the depoliticizing of art and the lyricism. The statement was issued and signed by fourteen artists, among them were FX Harsono, Bonyong Munny Ardhi, and Hardi. These four students were later practically dismissed by the STSRI ASRI art instituite in Jogja.

6. Sanento Yuliman, Seni Lukis Modern Indonesia, Pemiskinan, Pendusunan & Pemingitan?, Matra, February 1992.

7. This assumption cannot apply to the developments in other countries like China, India and Japan. Here the indicator is the participation of Indonesian artists in significant world events like the Venice Biennale and Asia Pacific Triennale. This doesnt provide an indicator for the success of Indonesian art as a whole in other parts of the world.



1. Influence by the lecturers at ASRI: Fadjar Sidik dan Widayat.
2. Sanggar Dewata Indonesia: Nyoman Gunarsa, Made Winata (periode Karangasem)
3. G. Sidharta ("Tangisan Sang Dewi").
4. Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru: Hardi ("Presiden tahun 2001"), FX Harsono, Bonyong Munny Ardhi.
5. "Nusantara-Nusantara" Exhibition: Sudarisman dan Suatmadji
6. PIPA: Gendut Riyanto (plus with "Puisi Rupa"), Haris Purnama, Tulus Warsito, Ivan Haryanto, Ronald Manulang.
7. Dede Eri Supriya (Realisme baru)
8. Edhi Soenarso: first Indonesian monumental sculptor

8. Moelyono: "KUD"
9. Studio "Brahma Tirta Sari": Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam
10. Eddie Hara
11. Heri Dono ("Wayang Legenda" and his painting artwork)
12. Photographic realism/surealistic tendency: Agus Kamal, Boyke Aditya, Nengah Nurata, Ivan Sagito, Sutjipto Adi, Lucia Hartiin, Linda Kaun (batik).
13. Cemeti Gallery: Nindityo Adipurnomo dan Mella Jaarsma

14. Dadang Christanto (from the exhibition of "Perkara Tanah")
15. Anusapati (object tendecy)
16. BINAL ART EXPERIMENTAL: Hedi Hariyanto and Kuda Binal Heri Dono
17. around pra and pasca Reformasi era: Agung Kurniawan and Hanura Hosea (critical artwork/social protest)
18. Abstract Expresionism: Made Sumadiyasa, Made Sukadana, Putu Sutawijaya, Nyoman Sukari.
19. Djoko Pekik: reformation trilogy ( Berburu Celeng, Tak Enteni Keplokmu, Tanpa Kabar dan Telegram Duka)
20. Noor Sudiyati (art craft)
22. Poetic Wildness: Ugo Untoro, S. Teddy D
23. Agus Suwage: self portrait and drawing charcoal
24. Komunitas Seni dan Budaya Taring Padi: Yustoni Volunteero dkk (posters and public art)
25. Iwan Wijono (performance "Manusia Hijau")

26. Apotik Komik group: Samuel Indratma, Bambang 'Toko' Witjaksono, Arie Dyanto, Popok Tri Wahyudi
27. I Nyoman Masriadi
28. Ruang MES 56: photography
29. Eko Nugroho and Daging Tumbuh (comic compilation)
30. Abdi Setiawan (sculpture)
31. Budi Kustarto (tendecy of new self portrait)
32. The House of Natural Fiber - Yogyakarta new media art laboratory: Venzha dkk
33. Yuli Prayitno
34. "Jogyapan-Jepangkarta" exhibition (expatriate): Seiko Kajiura
35. Yogyakarta Urban Art Movement: Arie Dyanto and friends (new public art, stencil art)
36. Sigit Santoso: the tendency of new internasionalism
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