Dan Perjovschi’s Political Wall Drawings
What happened to Yves Klein three seconds after he passionately flung himself from the rooftop in his artwork Leap Into the Void? In reality, of course, he landed—unscathed—on a tarpaulin. In the dark (but damn funny) mind of Romanian artist, Dan Perjovschi, however, Klein landed with a splat on the sidewalk below, as seen in Perjovschi’s photograph Leap Into the Void, 3 Seconds After.
Although this photograph is not in Perjovschi’s preferred medium of chalk or marker, 3 Seconds After beautifully showcases the artist’s finely-tuned blend of cynicism and humor. Indeed, guffaws and giggles were heard throughout erjovschi’s personal and image-rich talk at SAIC’s auditorium on October 8, 2007, as part of the visiting artist program’s Art and Politics lecture series.
Born in 1961 in Sibiu, Romania, Perjovschi lived under the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu. After 12 years of art classes in Soviet-style education, he says he will “never paint again.” This is not an exaggeration, as Perjovschi now works strictly with cartoon-style drawings and text, applied directly onto the walls of galleries and museums, usually in black permanent marker. Although humorous—a man sneaking a peep up Lady Liberty’s robes, for instance—Perjovschi’s works are never without that all-important tinge of cynicism and political questioning.
In 1990, the year following the Romanian revolution that culminated in the execution of Ceauşescu, Perjovschi and his wife Lia founded the Contemporary Art Archive in Bucharest in an attempt to make contemporary art theory accessible to all, and to fi ll in the blanks of art history. Perjovschi also began work as an illustrator for the political weekly magazine 22 in 1987, a position he continues to hold today.
It is easy to understand Perjovschi’s place in the Art and Politics series, but as one audience member at the lecture astutely questioned: where exactly does he locate his politics in his wall drawings, such as the ones he has created for the Venice Biennale or for MoMA?
Well, first there is the subject matter. Perjovschi always references the current political events of the country he is showing in, allowing his viewers to directly relate to the drawings. He also draws pictures related to issues of his own country, and he has recently produced a great deal of work that references the European Union, which Romania joined in January.
It is also worth noting Perjovschi’s chosen medium is inherently political, which carries its own complications. He says: “In my work, what’s really important is not the spectacle, but the destroying part of the project, when everything has to be stopped, walls repainted.”
Thousands of visitors to the MoMA this past summer watched Perjovschi as he drew on the museum’s tallest wall in the rotunda. To see the artist—40 feet in the air on a bucket lift—is something of a spectacle, but the ultimate erasing of all his work is a conscious denial of traditional art institutional practices. Perjovschi’s art is as ephemeral as it is accessible, and it is this denial of the commodity that deepens his political art practice.
There is a complex relationship between Perjovschi and artistic institutions, however. During his lecture, he displayed a drawing of himself inside and outside museum walls, highlighting the fact that he realizes he can be, in his words: “very vocal outside the museum and kind of quiet inside it, no?” It seems that there is a safety within the museum that allows for Perjovschi to maintain full control. He elaborates: “I’m not an activist. I like to talk about things, but not to do them. I feel comfortable in a museum where I’m let to do what I want.” He is no graffiti artist; he takes on the marking of walls with institutional permission.
Regardless of the location of his work, Dan Perjovschi manages to facilitate the discussion of political events in a playful manner. His black-marker drawings and simple text elicit varied reactions from his audience, including frowns and urrowed brows, and invariably, laughter.
Dan Perjovschi is exhibiting in Brave New Worlds, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, Minnesota through February 17, 2008.