Gorzo – Jedi Knight
H’art gallery exists because the friendship between Gorzo and me. He was the seed that made everything possible. So, any comment I’d make about him or his art is subjective – I can only explain certain contexts relevant for his creativity. Others should be the real critics, not me; I can only tell you some stories from these last 4 years when I’ve been his gallerist.
I first met Gorzo at the beginning of 2002 in the video room of the Arts University in Bucharest. He was wearing hideous women’s clothes and harsh make up, which made him look like an antic Greek comedian. He was preparing for a performance in a film by Alina Buga. I found him funny and very energetic. Two months later, Mihnea Mircan invited me at Gorzo’s solo exhibition opening at the Hanul cu Tei gallery. Once inside, in a typical underground atmosphere, I felt I had to get out as quickly as possible. It was as if I had taken a strong vomitive. All the nightmares from my childhood were taking shape there. Black old ladies viciously looking over a fence, monstrous creatures unfolding incredible stories and, on top of everything, the “Victim of the victim” painting (a title that’s now extensively used) majestically proclaimed the erotically-violent impudence that was to become Gorzo’s trademark. I first strongly rejected his works, but then I found them quite intriguing. Me and Gorzo soon became good friends and, in the fall of 2002, we decided to open a contemporary art gallery. The first exhibition was “Village people” and displayed Gorzo’s works. I must say that our plan to open a private gallery of contemporary art began by parasitizing my parents’ gallery, which was, at that time, more like an antiques store where you could find anything from furniture to classic Romanian works of art. I remember how Gorzo placed one smaller version of the painting with the old ladies holding axes above a Matisse-like nude painting by Pallady – a premonitory juxtaposition.
Two sexually explicit exhibitions followed – “Rediscovering the beauty of the nude” and “Stiff life”. The latter, with Suzana Dan as co-exhibitor, triggered enraged attacks coordinated by a very important daily newspaper that bemoaned the fact that Romanian art has no educative values anymore and that our children cannot be safe by can no more enter an art gallery without being assaulted by pornographic images. In Romania, that kind of exhibition was a premiere, and Gorzo confessed at the time that he intended to claim that artistic territory no one called for. As a gallerist, I knew that one of the specific subjects of the new generation of visual artists was eroticism, dealt with in a more direct and uninhibited manner. In the consumerist society that was about to be born there was an inflation of images, and the visual artists were using all the means they had to compete and catch the public’s attention.
Gorzo rapidly discovered that social protest can work and that once an artist’s public profile came into view, his responsibility as a player in the community grows. At that time, the Romanian democratic institutions had just begun to work properly, so social activism and involvement in the real problems of the community was rather a young artists’ territory. In 2003, Gorzo protested against the plan of building the Cathedral of National Redemption in the Carol Park through an exhibition called “Rural art”, displayed at HT003 gallery. One year later, the “F.A.Q. about Steve the Great” group exhibition, where he exhibited along with artists such as Suzana Dan, Alina Buga, Sorin Tara and Sabina Spătariu, gave birth to one of the biggest scandals in the recent Romanian arts history, by protesting against the way the Romanian Government and the Orthodox Church understood they should celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Moldavian ruler Stefan the Great’s death. The events sponsored by the Government were sadly reminiscent to the communist nationalistic pathos and manner, and general public had almost no reaction to that. In 2005, in the exhibition “Mr. President is a sexual object”, Gorzo used irony to mock the naïve and full of passion way in which Romanians relate to political power. In a society where many times gossip replaces political activism, and where most of the artists avoid taking a social stand, Gorzo went boldly into the arena and provoked with every artistic event he made. The street art project that followed, called “The cocoons”, triggered one of the biggest journalistic mistakes in Romanian post-revolutionary history. One of the most important private TV channels aired a documentary in prime time concerning the invasion of satanic symbols in the center of Bucharest. Of course, the 350 pink plaster-cast cocoons, glued on the grey buildings walls of the Romanian Capital, had nothing to do with that, being just another artistic project of Gorzo’s.
In May 2005, Gorzo told me he would like to do a “heroic” exhibition. He said “Look Dan, I had enough, I want to do something heroic.” It sounded like a line from a Chekhov’s play. I laughed and added, letting loose my Philosophy education, that that was not possible anymore because no gesture in this world could nowadays be beyond any comment. He replied that it might be so, but he would give it a try anyway. He promised that he would transform the gallery in a cave/chapel and for that we had to lock ourselves up in the gallery until he would finish the exhibition. And that’s exactly what we did. For 8 days we worked there, he ceaselessly painting and drawing on the ceiling by using the flame of a candle an d me taking pictures and filming. The final result was a complete and wonderful hysteria. The people at the opening were surrounded by the walls framed with flowers and Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries”. I had no idea if people thought the exhibition was beyond any commentary, but honestly I did not care. For me it was an awakening that made me see that in the arts world there are two categories of participants: the simple artists and the shamans. Shamans are very few and Gorzo is one of them. The artist-shaman is the one always carries his world with him – a world that is coherent, obvious and honest. When you come across that type of artist, your day becomes more beautiful. He instantly finds the solution to a certain problem, while you tried all the logical paths in vain. If you ask him how he did it, he gracefully says that he does not know. But of course he does – it is just untranslatable. Shamans have gnosiologic, therapeutic and premonitory functions. When you come near them, you become more aware of what you really want in life, you become healthier and sometimes much more socially involved. Artists like Gorzo are acting like social seismographs. If you really want to know what to expect, listen to them. They are the ones “detecting a change in the Force”. They are the new Jedi knights.(Dan Popescu)