Folk Formalism and Magic Mountains:
Grounding the Art of Dumitru Gorzo
“The folk tale is the primer of the picture-language of the soul”
- Joseph Campbell
…the people, place, history, and folk characteristics that fuel the artist’s creative mind most trenchantly are those that can be localized to Maramures – the small, relatively remote village where he grew up in the Carpathian Mountains, in Transylvania. Although the artist has been based in much more populous cosmopolitan settings like Bucharest and New York City for several decades, he has regularly traveled back to his hometown, and to many other locations in Romania, for several months a year, not only to spend time with family and friends, but also to make work, mount exhibitions, and examine ever more deeply the terrain and traditions of his places of origin. A sense of quietude and timelessness, and of a nearly unabated resistance to the vicissitudes of history, is a key factor in Gorzo’s interests here, as is a sense of simplicity, humility, and virtuous, intractable belonging.
In the artist’s work, representation and abstraction converge, and distinctions between real and imaginary fall asunder. […] Life in the mountains might be both physically demanding and existentially taxing, but it is also full of strange occurrences, vivid dreams, dramatic phenomena, magical encounters, fanciful stories, and myriad matters of joy, superstition, fear, and allure.
Over time, especially the longer he worked through, then away from such source images in his New York studio, Gorzo began to take a consistently deeper interest in tradi- tions like processions, namely in the masks, costumes, and beliefs or superstitions associated with them. His paintings from this time, mixed media works featuring generally abstract human figures or anthropomorphized beasts, are full of move- ment and bold, vigorous linework. They’re energetic, sometimes complex, typically bursting with color – ranges of blues, deep pinks, and organic greens are among his trademark hues – and the artist’s formal choices at this time began to merge into a new idiom, a language expressing the depths of folk traditions and imaginations, as opposed to the present tense realities of a people.
On a metaphorical level, given the staggering number and variety of objects he has produced, these stalpi come to indicate, inhabit, and possibly haunt a terrestrially familiar, fantastically folkloric, magically mountainous, surreally sylvan setting. Created in a town called Timisoara, and hewn by hand from local timbers and post-structural lengths of wood, these large-scale, totem-like sculptures are painstakingly carved, then vibrantly painted or carefully stained, and they present as both fearsomely imposing and monstrously amiable. They seem to beckon and ward off at once.
To be sure, Gorzo’s new sculptures are among his most strikingly fresh, uniquely powerful, formally assertive works to date. They’re alarming and disarming, daunting and imposing – perhaps even ghostlike, phantasmagoric – yet also marve- lously charming, mystically whimsical, and wondrously, wildly alive.
Dumitru Gorzo’s art emerges out of the social and geographical realities of a very specific, and specifically traditioned, setting, and opens up into a sui generis world that increasingly becomes, from one formidable body of work to the next, entirely of the artist’s own making. Gorzo never ceases to take his mixed-media processes and relentless zeal for vigorous, colorful mark-making into new territory, yet he resists veering too far afield of the peoples, histories, and places that course through his veins and spark his imagination. These people and places, and these stories, beliefs, and fantasies, furnish the artist with a fathomless source of inspiration, and they ground the most timeless elements of his ever-evolving folk formalist footing.
O nouă instalație Gorzo, cu lucrări construite în acțiunile >
CONTINUOUS STUDIO IV, iunie-octombrie 2022, Fosta Comenduire a Garnizoanei, Timișoara
CONTINUOUS STUDIO V: Peretele, decembrie-ianuarie 2023, /SAC @ Malmaison
“Probabil am creat un simulacru de mitologie personală. Nu există nici un fel de cheie centrală de citire, lucrarea poate fi parcursă de la coadă la cap sau de la cap la coadă. De fapt, aproape din orice punct. Fac niște povești vizuale, dar modul în care celălalt le citește îi revine în totalitate lui, eu ofer doar niște hinturi. Poate că ar folosi niște instrucțiuni de folosire. La /SAC @ Malmaison, toate gogomîrlele și bestiile își continuă existențele, însă într-o pădure nebună.”
- fragment din: "Ca artist am obligația propriilor greșeli" - interviu cu Dumitru Gorzo realizat de Lina Țărmure