J E A N A R P
J O Z E F J A R E M A
May 5 - June 18, 2022
We are very pleased to present the exhibition The X-Value in our Vienna gallery, which sets works by the Polish painter Jozef Jarema and the German-French artist Jean Arp in relation to one another.
The “X-value” is used to calculate tangents in mathematics; it is used to determine their angles of inclination, curves of approach, and points of contact. The exhibition The X-Value at Crone Vienna, which is dedicated to the work of two extraordinary artists from the 1940s and 1950s, is also about exploring rapprochement, contact, and common ground: the cosmopolitan Jozef Jarema, born in 1900 in Stary Sambor (then Austrian Galicia, now Ukraine) and died in 1974 in Munich, and the Alsatian Jean Arp, born in 1886 in Strasbourg and died in 1966 in Basel, met again and again during their lifetimes. Both exhibited together, both organized transnational artist collaborations, both wrote literary works alongside their artistic activities, and both felt committed to the search for a universally abstract visual language in turning away from the self-inflicted, concrete horrors of two World Wars.
Jozef Jarema knew no boundaries, no barriers, no limits. He was multitalented, a go-getting, versatile creative who was never satisfied with just one thing; he was a networker and doer long before the word “networking” existed and “doing” was a virtue in art.
In 1918, he moved to Kraków, where he studied painting, and in 1924 to Paris, where he moved in artistic circles that included Louis Aragon. In 1931 he returned to Kraków, first founded the magazine Glos Plastyków (The Voice of the Plasticists), then the legendary avant-garde theater Cricot. He wrote experimental plays, staged absurdist literary performances, and appeared as an actor. During World War II, he made his way via Romania to the troops of the Polish general Władysław Anders. In 1939, immediately after Germany's invasion of Poland, Anders was taken prisoner by the Soviets, who were allied with Hitler. When the Soviet Union was finally invaded by the German Wehrmacht itself in 1941, Stalin instructed the imprisoned Anders to form thousands of Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union into a rump army to fight the German troops. This so-called Anders Army eventually won the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino, where the Western Allies had previously suffered heavy losses and failed to capture the Nazi stronghold. Jarema was a soldier in action at this battle. Despite his participation in the war as an Anders combatant, he managed to participate in art exhibitions from 1941 to 1945 in Baghdad, Tel Aviv, and Rome, where his unit was stationed in the meantime.
After World War II, Jarema did not return to Poland, but moved to Rome. As early as October 1945, together with the Futurist Enrico Prampolini, he founded the Art Club there, an association of intellectuals who wanted to network with avant-garde artists from all over the world and create a multinational art platform that crossed borders in every respect. After the dark, cruel war years, the Art Club was to be, according to Jarema, “a common, lucid home for those whose only home is freedom in thought, words, images, hopes, and senses.” It was no coincidence that they settled in Via Margutta, where Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Anna Magnani, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Roeder, and, at times, Pablo Picasso lived at the time.
Thanks to Jarema and Prampolini's drive, the idea of global networking quickly took off. After only a few years, the Art Club had branches in over 30 countries, the most active of which were in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Egypt, and Turkey. The association organized over 200 exhibitions in the 1940s and 1950s and brought out more than 150 publications. On display were works by nearly 60 artists who were primarily abstract, constructivist, amorphous, non-objective painters and sculptors, most notably Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, Willi Baumeister, Max Bill, Giorgio de Chirico, Roberto Maguelli, Constantin Brâncuși, and Lucio Fontana, but also Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. Along the way, Jarema organized the works for the Polish Pavilion at the 24th Venice Biennale in 1948 and the “Congress of Visual Arts” in Palermo in 1953.
By his own admission, Jarema's greatest admiration during this period belonged to his colleague Jean Arp. He saw in him an “incomparable mastery in dealing with the Dadaist principle of chance and an unrivaled sovereignty in developing a new object language of the everyday.” In his own paintings at the time, Jarema took up Arp’s formal language, which was naturalistic in character but aspired to abstraction. In several group exhibitions of the Art Club they presented their works together, each struggling in their own way for “the authenticity of intentional coincidence.” While Arp attempted to fathom the core and essence of found forms by reducing them to their shell with the greatest possible perfection and protectively enclosing their essence in it, Jarema takes exactly the opposite approach: although he too translates natural, organic forms into the abstract, he leaves them their authenticity and core by revealing their innermost being through an intuitive, gestural style of painting—which, against the background of the later development of contemporary painting, is reason enough to rediscover and reassess Jarema's work.
How Arp, who was already well known at the time, assessed Jarema's work is unknown. There are no written sources, only accounts from Jarema's friends, according to which their relationship was characterized by mutual respect and appreciation.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Arp and Jarema lost sight of each other. Jarema moved with his wife Maria first to Nice, where they ran a weaving mill together and produced carpets with abstract patterns, and later to Munich, where the artist died in 1974—eight years after Arp.
In the exhibition The X-Value the works of Jean Arp and Jozef Jarema come together again for the first time in almost 70 years. The emphasis is deliberately placed on Jarema, whose work deserves to be rediscovered. The works of his role model Arp will help to organize it, as well as act as a reference and counterpoint.