Second half of the 20th century

Towards the end of the 1950s several groups were established, with the Group of Mikuláš Galanda formulating its programme in the most striking way. The group’s first exhibition was held in Žilina in December 1957 and proved a fitting tribute to the progressive artistic legacy of Mikuláš Galanda. But it is should be stated that those authors who created graphic works under its auspices – for example Milan Laluha or Andrej Barčík – were essentially painters for whom graphic art represented not a new way of searching but rather a way of applying their existing painting knowledge through another medium.
The 29 August Group was another grouping of the period which primarily associated authors of the Second World War Generation and, by means of its theorist Ľubo Kára, presented its creative programme with an emphasis on topical relevance. Several distinguished graphic arts personalities of the period – including Vincent Hložník, Orest Dubay and Alojz Klimo–worked in this group.
In addition to the development of traditional tendencies, several new responses to current European events started to appear in graphic art from the end of the 1960s, These ranged from Art informel – which represented one of most radical transformations of the forms of Slovak fine art – through conceptual tendencies to geometrical abstraction. Towards the end of the 1960s graphic art underwent a shift in the direction of conceptual art while moving along the limits of acceptance as graphic works, for instance the work of Peter Bartoš, Stano Filko, Július Koller, Alex Mlynarčík, Michal Ker and Juraj Meliš. The response to geometrical abstraction started to appear as late as the early 1960s in the works of Alojz Klima, Tamara Klimová, Eduard Antal, Miloš Urbásek and Milan Dobeš.
Having played the most important role in the pre-war development of Slovak graphic art, Vincent Hložník also remained a key figure in the post-war period. Hložník’s impact on the development of graphic production in Slovakia during the 1960s was reflected in the establishment of the Club of Graphic Artists, whose members were primarily made up of Hložník’s former students.
Their first show took place in 1968 at the City Gallery in Bratislava. The Club’s members – Jozef Baláž, Viera Bombová, Albín Brunovský, Miroslav Cipár, Orest Dubay, Viera Gergeľová, Ľubomír Kellenberger, Ján Lebiš, Emil Sedlák and Miloš Urbásek – endeavoured to maintain the original mission of graphic art, to control the culture of materials and the purity of its demanding methods and especially to not forget its specific characteristics.
Imaginary art, whose main representative was Albín Brunovský, also played an important role. In terms of its effect on the development of modern graphic art production, Brunovský’s works may be compared to the legacy of Vincent Hložník. Brunovský was interested in searching for harmony, understanding, peace and an idealised image of the world. Other outstanding students of Hložník included Vladimír Gažovič and Kamila Štanclová.
In contrast to other art disciplines where artists had few possibilities to present their work abroad, Slovak graphic art was frequently shown internationally during the 1960s and indeed garnered several awards. The situation changed somewhat during the 1970s when the political atmosphere prevented many graphic art forms from being officially presented. However, during the early 1980s the situation in the field of Slovak fine art gradually started to open up once again under the influence of Gorbachov’s restructuring.
Up to this point in time there was relative satisfaction with the situation of Slovak graphic art, which was even referred to as ‘the first lady‘ of national artistic production. Thereafter, however, the position of graphic art in Slovak fine art underwent a significant change, and by the mid 1980s comments about stagnation were increasingly heard. On the other hand one paradoxical feature became apparent- that the Slovak graphic production of that period was evaluated as having certain qualities.
During this period the Brunovsky School also emerged on the scene, although from a modern vantage point it is more precise to talk about the students of Brunovsky rather than the school, as it is often the tendency in artistic-scientific literature. Brunovský himself accepted only those graduates who imitated him least of all. They included Karol Ondreička, Dušan Polakovič, Robert Jančovič, Vojtech Kolenčík, Peter Kľúčik, Stanislav Černý, Igor Piačka and most remarkable of all Katarína Vavrová. Several of his later graduates started to incline rather to non-object depiction, such as Peter Augustovič, Igor Benca, Karol Felix and Marián Komáček, while Tamara Klenčíková used geometrical abstraction. In addition to graduates of the Brunovsky School, we can find more distinctive graphic programmes in the works of Blažej Baláž and Martin Kellenberger.
During the 1980s Slovak graphic art lost its priority position in Slovak fine arts, and in contrast with earlier periods no distinguished graphic art personalities emerged. During this period Slovak graphic art was not able to apply and creatively develop the initiatives and traditions of the previous period. ‘Historical fatigue’ was also an important factor – stagnation set in and anything which could be achieved was often repeated and failed to capitalise on the possibilities for further development.
The worldwide preference for large-surface formats and striking optical effect also impacted negatively on the development of Slovak graphic arts, with the result that many of Slovakia’s smaller graphic art works were literally lost in this flood.
At that point in time the succeeding generation started to introduce new trends in worldwide art, although primarily in painting and plastic art. On their return to Slovakia in the early 1990s several young graduates of foreign art colleges – including Stano Bubán, Simona Bubánová, Daniel Brunovský, Laco Teren and Ivan Csudai – focused exclusively on the European art scene, their work reflecting the influence of the Italian trans avant-garde, the French figuration libre or the German Die neuen wilde. Computer graphic art became a specific phenomenon, initially in the works of Jozef Jankovič and Daniel Fischer, and later too in the work of other authors.
In 1996 the GoBOD Association of Graphic Artists was founded with the aim of developing forms of contemporary Slovak graphic arts without a group programme or prioritisation of certain characteristics of graphic production. Quite the opposite, the association was open not only to new incentives but also to additional disciplines of fine art. Its members included Peter Augustovič, Igor Benca, Robert Brun, Karol Felix, Marcel Haščič, Robert Jančovič, Dušan Kállay, Peter Kľúčik, Vojtech Kolenčík, Marián Komáček, Karol Ondreička, Igor Piačka, Kamila Štanclová, Katarína Vavrová. Robert Jančovič and Katarína Vavrová who later seceded from membership.
In several instances, however, the extent to which the borders of graphic arts have been extended is debatable. Graphic art has gradually broken free from stylistic limits but has not been able to exceed its technologic limitations, even though these have shifted considerably during the last few decades. Previously unknown artists now appeared on the scene. At the start of the 1990s in particular, the forms of Hložník and Brunovský were flatly excluded from the context of development of Slovak art. During this period existing graphic art forms were repeatedly recycled to the point of saturation, with very little by way of innovation. Towards the end of the 1990s and in the early years of the 21st century it was mainly the non-orthodox conception of graphic art-work which came to the fore, and these forms were often at the borders of graphic art (Matej Krén, Peter Kálmus, Peter Rónai, Marek Kvetan).