An awe-inspiring and true visual and mental spectacle, "Skulptur-O-rama" ("Sculpture-O-rama") is the latest exhibition of sculptures made by renowned artist Djordje Aralica. His contemporary associative sculptures made of intricately welded chains of stainless steel defy the sense of gravity and gravitas. As our emphatic responses and perception of lightness of these factually quite heavy metal sculptures collide with the contemplation of oversized representation of everyday objects such as hats or hourglasses, Aralica submerges us into his stunningly cheerful and engaging creative world; world ambiguously devoid of everydayness. The lady’s or gentleman’s hats made of industrial chains, in contrast to customarily made utilitarian hats of luxurious cloths, actually reveal rather than conceal. These sculptures of hats are hauntingly void of human figures and related aspects of personal identities. It is on the beholder to contemplate the identity issues embodied in a hat, as a fashion item, part of a uniform, or simply a covering for the head when it is cold or too hot. Changing hats, however, is proverbially about social status, authority, politics, diplomacy, and co-existence. Aralica grouped his various sculptural hats under powerful slogan "Mind Your Hat" as he challenges the social norms and attitudes, and simultaneously evokes and provokes the real and desired societal changes. This staging of chained objects into the domain of transition and transience is further elucidated in Aralica’s sculptures from the series "WaterAirTime." Elementary forms of everyday objects associated with life-giving and life-defining primary elements – water, air, time – are made of tightly interlocked heavy chains. Aralica's oversized, monumental, and wondrous sculptures of a balls, glasses, or hourglasses subtly and intelligently point to the myths of human essence and existence. The difficulties of everyday life dissipate with Aralica’s sharp humor and lighthearted and passionate celebration of life. Indeed, "Skulptur-O- rama" emerges as a sculpture, art, and humanity gala.
Jelena Bogdanović, PhD, Art and Architectural Historian
Iowa State University, Ames, IA
(Skulptur-O- rama, exhibition catalogue, September 2017)
How did you get your start?
As a child I wanted to become an architect, and thus attended a technically- oriented high school. However, I soon realized that the architectural creation is profoundly dependent on technological issues. That is why I turned my attention to sculpture as a more autonomous discipline dealing with form.
How would you describe your style? How has it evolved during your career?
My approach to form, but not necessarily to materialization, is probably minimalist and purist. It has matured as a result of an intimate change regarding my understanding of art. Namely, I graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, which at that time, was a traditionally-oriented school with the curriculum reliant on figurative art. It was only after I finished my studies, and moved to U.S. that I acquired a different set of “art values” that I incorporate in my work.
What themes occur/reoccur in your work?
The utilitarian objects from everyday life reoccupy my attention. Architecture itself, is also a reoccurring subject.
How do you approach your creative process?
My new projects are commonly site-sensitive. References to the gallery location – its built environment, mood, or history – often inspire my narrative. Thus, whereas my cycle ‘Cityscapes – BLOCK,’ recollects the forms recognizable in the modernist architecture of New Belgrade, my book sculptures refer to the historic location of the now lost National Library, which once stood just across the street from the gallery where I presented my show. The envisioned subject theme also determines my choice of medium, as I often count on its own metaphoric potential in building my narrative content.
Where do you find inspiration? Do other artist influence your work?
The environment and the social milieu with all its complexity, influence my work. As I generally perceive life demands with a dose of humor, I often aim to catch amusing aspects of everyday routine.
In which medium/media do you work?
I mainly work in metal, however, my favorite material is stone.
Where do you create your art?
I do not need a special place or certain conditions for the development of my ideas. I usually work at home. In the initial stages, I prefer to be alone, and then often work during the night, when there are no likely distractions.
What has been your biggest art faux-pas?
I am passionate about my work, and this affection provides the feeling that I had luck with my profession. Certainly, there were several occasions in which I had no - or not enough - luck, but on the other hand, the mishaps can tone your creative potential.
Have you ever experienced a creative rut? If so, how did you overcome it?
I pursue other activities while I wait for a situation that affects my concentration to disappear or change.
Is there a piece you are most proud of? Why that particular piece?
The key pieces of my projects are usually more demanding. I like to explore new media and new technological procedures, which make these sculptures more challenging. Yet, I cannot distinguish them among the others with which I further develop my ideas, and which are equally important for the general meaning of the project.
What risks have you taken with your work or for your work?
From my childhood on, I sought fulfillment in art creation. As a voluntary participant in this long-run adventure, I have no comments or complains about the risks it involves.
In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the arts today?
In global culture with forceful equalization tendencies, it would be interesting to see what may be an artist’s response to the world with no external particularities that would arouse and touch upon his inner-individuum.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned throughout your career?
Art does not differ much from other professions; persistence and self-confidence are paramount.
(excerpt from the interview, Embossmag 5, Black and White, October 2016)
New chains by Djordje Aralica! On this occasion, world constitutive elements – water, air, and time – presented in the title as a single ideogram, are appropriately packed in elementary forms of a bottle, glass, ball, and an hourglass. Their expanding, spilling, and flowing content acquired the shape of its glass or leather receptacles, transparency, or elasticity, of which does not disguise its changeable character. Instead of these predictable materials, the artist introduces a curtain of chains, devoid of any utilitarian purpose. Once again, we submerge into Aralica’s, at first sight l’art pour l’art, manipulation of his appealing medium overwhelmed by visual impressions: verism, detail, texture, material, as well as the unexpected transformation of ideal form. His hourglasses also conceal a small audio event: the artist’s time–sand in a form of an internal chain converts the hourglass into a rattle! Suddenly, all the glasses, bottles, and balls start ringing, bubbling, and fizzing in our ears, revealing thus their real content. Is this Aralica’s laconic wit that celebrates the easiness of life, escapism, or lightheartedness, or could it be a call for discerning a curtain which separates us from that which imparts meaning to our existence, and which beats, breaths, boils, and leaks independently from us?
Marina Mihaljević, Art Historian
(VodaVazduhVreme, exhibition catalogue, August 2016)
Costume has been a recognizable sign of social status for centuries. Apart from the social rank, certain parts of costume, such as caps or hats, convey various aspects of personal identity. All at once, a hat perched atop a head, it seems, conceals the thoughts below. Inasmuch, change of hat conceals, or maybe reveals, change of attitude. Changing hats, symbols of authority and power, signify a desired change of social identity. Aralica's hats and caps made of chains, symbols of restraint, challenge the possibility of such a transition. Besides, transparency of the objects built in such a way makes the basic purpose of a hat, which is to cover and conceal, pointless. Chain as a material becomes a riddle. It is both playful and serious. It connotes, as a hat itself, both factual and mystified. Its appealing ambiguity provokes the spectator to contemplate the exhibited object and its intended message. Albeit the notoriously challenging medium, Djordje Aralica’s oversized hats and caps create the atmosphere of childish delight. Therefore, everyone who seeks to communicate their personal attitude by choosing a hat or a cap will appreciate the rich offer made by Aralica’s workshop under the slogan MIND YOUR HAT!
Ljubomir Milanović, PhD, Art Historian
The Institute for Byzantine Studies, SASA, Belgrade
(Mind Your Hat, exhibition catalogue, June 2015)
This latest Djordje Aralica’s solo-exhibition, Wheels and Suitcases, highlights some of his best-received works. Aralica is a sculptor whose work elevates everyday objects through their unexpected and lighthearted monumentalization. A native of the Balkans working and exhibiting in Europe, the Middle East, and United States, Aralica’s personal mobility is intimately intertwined with his carry- on sculptures, most of them conceived while he was virtually on the move. Back to Serbia after more than ten years, Aralica brings back ‘by handle’ the world cites together with his perception of their urbanity: the Flatiron Building of New York, the Triumphal Arch of Paris, and Le Corbusier’s Radiant City. His carry- ons, being travel records of the cityscapes translated into sculptural blocks mounted on wheels, are emblems of today’s global mobility. Aralica’s travelogue is both deeply architectonic and never quiet. His metal suitcase in a shape of a violin suddenly invokes sentimental music of the world restaurants. His metal books with simple rope handles are ready to be taken wherever and whenever you go, or are wide open when not on the move, ready to be inscribed by personal stories and read aloud. Aralica’s Wheels and Suitcases are subtle and witty reminders of complexities and contradictions of displacement and mobility in the age of globalization.
Jelena Bogdanović, PhD, Art and Architectural Historian
Iowa State University, Ames, IO
(Wheels and Suitcases, exhibition catalogue, November 2013)
The age of electronic media has brought the book in its traditional form to the verge of extinction. Printed book, codex, rapidly vanishes from the public sphere, losing the battle with its digital versions. By underscoring the materiality of the bound and printed page, Djordje Aralica’s sculptural cycle entitled Ad libris offers a pause and provides an opportunity to gain an insight into the realities of today. Against the immateriality and elusiveness of the digital realm, Aralica’s solid sculptural forms executed in metal with visible welds convey physical presence and longevity of his sculptures–books. Aralica carefully controls every mark and physical detail. By unconventionally combining materials like rope and steel, the artist emphasizes the sensual nature of the traditional art of bookbinding. Books in Aralica's world create their own space – its constituents are themselves bound together, chained, mobile, twisted, and tactile. His sculptures offer an invitation to interact – to move them, roll them, leave fingerprints on them. They, at the same time, deny our interference – their pages do not turn. Being without text that would transfer the reader to another time and space, Aralica's books become silent witnesses of a passing era.
Ljubomir Milanović, PhD, Art Historian
The Institute for Byzantine Studies, SASA, Belgrade
(Ad Libris, exhibition catalogue, June 2013)
‘Traveling’ sculptures by Djordje Aralica, collages of archetypal images—allegories of traveling, transport a viewer into a realm of imaginary destinations. It seems that they themselves levitate in the intermediary space between being-here and being-there. Djordje Aralica surprises us—just as he has done in the past—with richness of his metaphors. The outlines of famous edifices from world’s metropolises emerge before our eyes joined, surprisingly, with the contours of everyday objects. By synchronically zooming in and out, enlarging or shrinking the objects of seemingly incomparable dimensions, Aralica is rethinking the relationship between scale and distance. The ‘traveling’ sculptures thus produce a dual experience: the monumental can be touched, whereas the everyday can elude to the sphere of the unapproachable. Playing with the primary character of the material only contributes to the ambiguity of the insight: seemingly tactile and intimate materiality struggles within the domain of the cold and the distant. This year’s exhibition of sculptures by Djordje Aralica at the ULUS Gallery poses unavoidable questions about permanence and belonging. As we all struggle with similar questions, City Luggage reaches us as a parable of the present-day ‘on-the- move’ identity.
Tanja Conley, PhD, Historian and Theorist of Architecture
Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA
(City Luggage, exhibition catalogue, August 2010)
Djordje Aralica created the pieces in the present exhibition during the fall of 2008 while residing in Sherman, Texas. The thematic link between the works—keyholes—follows the concept of ‘gates’ that he explored in a previous exhibition, and springs from his experience as a transplant in the United States from his native Serbia. While the two groups of works share the idea of crossing a threshold into a different, guarded space, in the present works Djordje focuses on the means of entry, which may be constricted, difficult to unlock, and through which the yearning entrant’s eye may surreptitiously peer. Like an architect, Djordje manipulates symmetry and geometry in his compositions, and his solids and voids suggest steps, arches, portals and windows. The mathematical calculation implied by his designs assures the viewer of architectonic solidity as much as the asphalt-colored surface. Though restful, the works also suggest recent movement: blocks or slabs appear to have been cut out and rotated or repositioned, a whole structure may seem to have been twisted on its main axis, and subtle asymmetries would seem to have resulted from pushing or prying apart. From the straight lines, rigidity and regular dimensions of his starting material, wooden boards, Djordje has been able to coax out a remarkable variety of curved planes and contours, the latter obvious along corners but also implied by the shapes produced by juxtaposed boards. The tension inherent to reconciling contrasts of rest and movement and of rectilinear and undulating lines creates a lasting interest in Djordje’s sculpture.
Dr Jeffrey Fontana, Associate Professor of Art History
Austin College, Sherman, TX
(TEXAS–Keyholes, exhibition catalogue, January 2009)
The recent body of work created by Djordje Aralica explores the artist’s relationship to his temporary home in SpaceFormJerusalem. It was here that our paths crossed in early 2007, and it has been both an honor and pleasure to become his friend. While the sculpture of this series inconsistently architectonic, evoking both pre-modern and contemporary architectural forms, Djordje has chosen to render the pieces in terra cotta, a medium which has a long history dating back to antiquity. The juxtaposition of elements of the past and present in his work is a metaphor for the seemingly inherent contradictions found around every corner of Jerusalem. In this way his work evokes the modern city with its long and rich past, which struggles to accommodate all of the trappings of modernity. One of the most visible examples exists in the contemporary architecture and public monuments of Jerusalem which appear often to be in conflict with the surrounding environment. Several of his pieces are displayed to represent a similar disjuncture. In all of his sculptures—whether those that are strictly geometric or those that are more organic—he experiments with the interplay of light and shadow, solids and voids, as well as texture to create pieces which convey a sense of quiet monumentality. Moreover, his work emphasizes simple lines and basic forms: for it is in the absence of excessive detail and ornamentation that the viewer is able to grasp the mediation of past and present which is embodied by Djordje Aralica’s work.
Karen Britt, Assistant Professor of Art History
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
(SpaceFormJerusalem, exhibition catalogue, June 2006)