Gábor Hushegyi: The Errant Art of Stano Masár, 2013

 The artist Stano Masár is one of the leading figures in post- and neo-conceptual art in Slovakia. He became established after 2000 as a member of the ‘noughties’ generation. What typifies his work is an original interpretation of space and the subject/object, not infrequently combined with citation and appropriation from the history of art. His objects and installations oscillate on the border of neo-avantgarde and late modernism, which prominently mark the idea of the work. Masár locates his premises or starting points in the 1980s and ’90s. However, his works go beyond the conceptual confines of his predecessor, especially in their humour and hyperbole and the surprising, unpredictable visual resolution. The history of visual art and art itself is thematised in a significant manner in his work: from interpretation of art history to an examination of art as an organism, functioning through a broad network of international and national institutions.

Installations and objects from the last decade and a half, found objects (finished off or reworked), and original pictograms unambiguously define for us the art-historical context of his work: the early 20th century supremacism of Kazimír Malevich and ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp, and Yves Klein’s Void from the year 1958. More precisely, these are reference frames for interpreting space as a found and completed object, and for poring over the void and the monochrome, which are dominant elements of Masár’s works. His thoroughgoing, stringent reduction and minimalism are applied in equal measure to the choice of materials, which however he manages to invest with significant art-historical connotations. That is precisely why Stano Masár is convinced that the process of artistic work may result in “an empty space – evacuated, stripped of any functionality or messages, and simultaneously a space physically and mentally filled with new messages”. Taking this step, the artist finds that the (site specific) space becomes a fundamental question, but also a means of communication for visual art. This is not a systematic and repeated exploration, as an end in itself, of the same object of art; rather, by accentuating the theme contexts are created which permit an exploration of art from the outside. By this means one is enabled to scrutinise art as an institutional system and a memorial institution, and to criticise the unseen power of the art market over the world of contemporary visual art. A decade ago, in Masár’s hands everyday household objects lost their original purpose and became reworked gallery exhibits with a shift of significance; in similar fashion now, and with a strong injection of humour, his latest works operate on the gallery space, which has become an impregnable, closed, empty object. But even a fragment of a world-renowned gallery or museum of modern art, in Masár’s conception, proves to be a fully valid work from a similar circle of problems. An identical material and visual reductiveness is applied in the case of art history. In the spirit of the ubiquitous visuality of our present time, works which are important in the history of art appear in the style of small information plates or pictograms. More than once the contemporary art of Slovakia and the world coincide in a common concept, and though frequently this is done with an ironic light touch, with humour, theoretical knowledge is always evident also.

After the tired household appliances, after the tired and fallen-down doors and walls, it is not just ruined spaces that come next in line: there is a turn towards critical thinking about the straying art of the present time and the non-/perception of contemporary creative work.
Stano Masár’s art is thoroughgoing. It is based on an interest in communication with the viewer, which does, however, require quite a lot of activity and knowledge of art on the participating viewer’s part. A means towards such communication may be found in the object catalogue, which contains a fundamental text, the first theoretical analysis of this author’s work.