Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum presents largest U.S. survey of Central-Eastern European art

Phoenix Art Museum presents largest U.S. survey of Central-Eastern European art

Phoenix Art Museum presents largest U.S. survey of Central-Eastern European art
Feb, 21, 2024

Modern and Contemporary ArtSpecial Engagement Exhibitions

Phoenix Art Museum presents largest U.S. survey of Central-Eastern European art

Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s features avant-garde works by artists from East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia

PHOENIX (February 21, 2024) – This spring, Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt) presents Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s, a major survey featuring nearly 100 artists from six Central-Eastern European nations, including East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Organized by the Walker Art Center, the exhibition features rarely seen and newly reconstructed works, tracing how a generation of artists with distinct experiences of locally specific state-sanctioned control embraced experimentation and interdisciplinary practices to confront at times harsh conditions of everyday life. Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s will be on view from April 17 through September 15, 2024 in Steele Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum.

Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s is an incredible opportunity in the Southwest to experience art from a region and time that is neither represented in the Phoenix Art Museum Collection nor often explored in U.S. museums,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “Through each of the artists represented, we hope this exhibition broadens our audience’s understanding of the challenges artists faced in Central and Eastern Europe during the tumultuous period of the 1960s to the 1980s. Multiple Realities and its subject matter are a stark reminder of the ways artists throughout history have fought for artistic freedom by devising experimental modes of expression to survive periods of censorship and struggle, all while persevering and creating some of the most arresting and engaging work in art history.”

Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s draws on visual arts, performance, music, and material culture to demonstrate the conceptual and formal innovation practiced by Eastern Bloc artists of the era, who were daily negotiating and adapting their artistic practices within societies that enforced restrictions on how art could be produced, circulated, and received by the public. The exhibition is organized into four thematic sections. Public and Private Spaces of Control explores how artists used documentary and covert photography, impromptu performances, and somber memorial works to reflect on state regulation of space, including the policing of artist behavior. Dimensions of the Self showcases how artists used their own bodies as media to explore different representations of self-expression and subversion. This section includes examples by women artists who radically reconsidered the female form, merging the body with landscape or representing the body as a site of sickness, trauma, pleasure, eroticism, and sexuality. Being Together: Alternative Forms of the Social explores the many ways artists built community and networks of exchange to move beyond the prescribed system of making and presenting art as dictated by the state. Looking to the Future: Science, Technology, and Utopia speaks to how the Space Race, the advancement of nuclear energy, and new forms of communication sparked major technological advancements, all of which inspired utopian thinking and experimentation. Works in this section chart the rise of Op art, kinetics and cybernetics, and the use of experimental sound and images.

“This expansive survey takes a fresh and interdisciplinary look into the defying moments and experimental art forms that characterize a 20-year period in Central and Eastern Europe,” said Rachel Sadvary Zebro, associate curator of collections and the exhibition’s coordinating curator at Phoenix Art Museum. “Independently seeking new artistic practices under varying degrees of censorship, surveillance, and control, artists in Multiple Realities explore a complex history filled with creativity, community, self-expression, and adventure.”

Key highlights from the exhibition include:

  • Hungarian artist Bálint Szombathy’s Selection from Lenin Budapesten (Lenin in Budapest) (1972), in which Szombathy poses with a portrait of Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Russian Revolution. Discarded after the May Day parade, and hollowed of its weighty symbolism, Lenin’s image is reduced to a prop on Szombathy’s casual walk through the streets of Budapest.
  • Jürgen Wittdorf’s Baubrigade der Sportstudenten from the series Jugend und Sport (Sport Student’s Builders Brigade from the series Youth and Sport) (1964), which was commissioned by the Academy of Sports in Leipzig. The linocuts hung for years at the school and were published in the Communist Youth Organization’s daily newspaper. The prints seem to depict the heroic, strong men of socialist realism, the Soviet-promoted art style that featured idealized portrayals of workers and industry, but a barely concealed homoeroticism courses through the scenes.
  • Works by German artist Gabriele Stötzer, including Nora (1983). A rare voice of open dissent in East Germany, Stötzer paid a high price for her activities when she was detained for a year at the Hoheneck women’s prison for signing a petition in support of exiled musician Wolf Biermann. The artist’s underground gallery in Erfurt was shut down in 1981 by the Stasi, the East German secret police.
  • Système Esthétique (Aesthetic System) (1973) by Sherban Epuré, who focused his artistic practice on the intersections of art and science, incorporating algorithms, geometry, and mathematical principles into his visual experimentations. His core reference points—information theory, cybernetics, structuralism, and Constructivism—were explored in relation to spirituality, intuition, rational thought, and the relationships between humans and machines.
  • Bleeding Monument(1969/2023) by Gyula Konkoly, which was recreated especially for Multiple Realities and” represents the first time the work is being shown in the U.S. The sculpture offers a pointed critique and meditation on the thaw that followed the 1956 Hungarian Revolution of the decade prior, while also acknowledging the aggression of the Soviet invasion of the 1968 Prague Spring. An iconic work by the Hungarian artist, it suggests a bleeding torso and constitutes a rare example of a work that immediately registers as a commentary on the political situation of the time.
  • Revisiting of Herakles (1982/2023) by Lutz Dammbeck. This work draws from the artist’s interdisciplinary “media collages,” in which he layered painting, objects, sound, moving images, and performance to create highly atmospheric installations that blurred the boundaries of mythic and historical events to explore and create new meanings.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by the Walker Art Center and featuring newly commissioned essays, a roundtable discussion, and thematic timelines that not only reflect on the specificity of the period but consider how the exhibition’s artworks and themes will resonate with today’s audiences.

High-resolution photography can be downloaded here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or

About the Exhibition
Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980s is organized by the Walker Art Center with major support provided by Martha and Bruce Atwater. Exhibition research was supported by a curatorial fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The exhibition is curated by Pavel S. Pyś, Curator of Visual Arts and Collections Strategy, at Walker Art Center. Its presentation at Phoenix Art Museum is coordinated by Rachel Sadvary Zebro, associate curator of collections. The presentation of Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s-1980s at Phoenix Art Museum is made possible through the generosity of The Opatrny Family Foundation, Joan Cremin, Men’s Arts Council, and Diana and Mark Feldman. In-kind support provided by Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix and KJZZ/KBACH. All exhibitions at Phoenix Art Museum are underwritten by the Phoenix Art Museum Exhibition Excellence Fund, founded by The Opatrny Family Foundation, with additional major support provided by Joan Cremin.

Admission is free for Museum Members; youth aged 5 and younger; and Maricopa County Community Colleges students. Entrance into the exhibition is included in general admission for the public. Visitors may also enjoy reduced admission to the exhibition during voluntary-donation times on Wednesdays from 3 – 9 pm, made possible by SRP and City of Phoenix. For a full breakdown of general admission prices and hours, see

About Phoenix Art Museum
Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

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