Marion Baruch

1929 | Timisoara, Romania
Marion Baruch — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: Oskar Landi

— Nathalie Viot — Noah Stolz

Romanian visual artist.

In 1948 Marion Baruch began to study at the Fine Arts Academy in Bucharest, which at that time was heavily subservient to the Stalinist regime. The following year she had the exceptional opportunity to emigrate to Israel, and thus continued her studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, where she was taught by Mordecai Ardon, a Bauhaus artist and former pupil of Paul Klee. Four years later she exhibited at the Micra-Studio Gallery in Tel Aviv to very positive reviews that led her to be awarded a grant, enabling her to attend the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome in 1954.
This intense development, punctuated continuously with new encounters and experiences, though also with unexpected twists and turns, was reflected in her painting, which was often described as being “strongly expressive”. Critics of the period, such as A. Mann, who wrote for the Tel Aviv newspaper Maariv, and Lionello Venturi, who wrote about her following her solo exhibition at “La Cupola” in Rome, were amazed at her constantly developing style and had difficulty in classifying her talent. Her teacher, Roberto Melli, who intuited Marion Baruch’s volatile and developing artistic language, wrote: “I do not know what the future of this artist will be (I do not use the word ‘painter’) if she is able to achieve the ambitions aspired to by the passionate enthusiasm of her nature, [and] her intuitive understanding of the empirical facts and specific directions current in modern painting”.

Her first son, Gabriele, was born in 1958 and her second, Paolo, in 1961. During the 1960s Baruch’s pictorial language changed radically to leave figuration permanently behind her, developing into an interest increasingly marked by a gestural approach that moved in the direction of abstraction, graphics and, in some ways, towards a plastic language that would reveal itself in a series of large sculptures at the turn of the 1970s that would be shown at the sculpture biennial in Paris and the Fondazione Pagani in Castellanza, Italy. This new phase probably began following the construction of the modernist villa in which she lived with her family, which she followed with almost maniacal diligence. It was as a result of this project that she met the blacksmith with whom she would create the metal sculptures mentioned above. With simple lines stylistically characteristic of modern architecture, these works create a space around the human figure though remaining open towards the exterior. This was the period in which Marion Baruch met A.G. Fronzoni, with whose help she produced two very radical works of experimental design: Contenitore-Ambiente (1970) and Vestito-Contenitore (1970). Masterfully photographed by Berengo Gardin, the images went around the world and were published in Abitare and Domus, among other magazines. She also met the visionary designer and manufacturer Dino Gavina, who invited Baruch to work on his project Ultramobile, a group of non-object objects designed by artists of such calibre as Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Sébastian Matta and Allen Jones.
This brief incursion into the world of design had an enduring influence on Marion Baruch’s way of thinking. She began not just to assimilate a conceptual form of practice but also to develop a pronounced interest in industrial production as an essential aspect of contemporary creation. Another period of assimilation was required for her to digest the relationship between the artist and Western art history. During this phase of transition her practice once more took up painting but included the production of artefacts and conceptualism in a series of works that were almost never exhibited and that can be understood in their most intimate nature only today: a series of Rembrandt (1978–82), and later Monitor [Monitors], Bandiere [Flags] and Pedane [Boards] (1985–89).

In 1989 she met the charismatic gallerist Luciano Inga Pin, with whom she was to work for several years showing her work at Art Basel and Art Cologne (1990–93). Her confrontation with the art market had an immediate effect on her development, as a result of which, though before the publication of the theorisation of the Esthétique Relationnelle [Relational Aesthetics], she turned herself into a company called Name Diffusion at the Chamber of Commerce. In establishing a dialogue with the textile companies with which she worked, her work made visible the production chain involved. Thus, her work was a form of mediation between worlds that were otherwise remote from one another. In 1992 she was included in a large group exhibition at the Groninger Museum, which was the first attempt to bring together artistic collectives that existed as companies. The exhibition was called Business Art / Art Business. For it, Marion Baruch produced a structured mediation platform that highlighted the dynamics of production with the help of a well-known textile company in Gallarate. She included in the work documentation of all the elements and people involved in industrial production: the products themselves, workers, workplaces, and stands for distribution and sales. She even included the museum café, which she customised, the museum’s signage and the shirts worn by the museum staff.

She lived in Paris from 1993 to 2000. In 1994 she was included in the exhibition Femmes Publiques at the Palais de la femme, where she fitted out a voting centre, having obtained all the official equipment required for municipal elections. By eliminating the boundaries between reality and fiction with a simple act, she staged a role-playing situation that turned the event into a place for encounter, debate and the expression of one’s will, catching it in suspension before it developed into a political act.
The activities of Name Diffusion underwent new developments affected by socio-political themes. A series of projects was created with the help of Internet platforms, which touched on such topical subjects as genetics, immigration and the phenomenon in France of “sans papiers”. Between 2002 and 2011 Name Diffusion included Arben Iljazi and Myriam Rambach and offered a series of workshop events that focused on translation as a moment of encounter. These participative events were held in Parisian institutions under the name “Tapis volant, jeu de cartes”, involving a public that was for the most part made up of migrants and “sans papiers”.

The most recent phases of Baruch’s career have been marked by her progressive loss of sight. In 2012 a new set of plastic works appeared characterised by a return to a formalism that the artist had long abandoned. The “rags” that she collects are nothing more than textile waste thrown away by the prêt-à-porter industry. The choice of how each piece should be exhibited gives rise to a complex and stratified linguistic procedure. Issuing from her visual memory come a series of images, dynamics, faces and the techniques of an artistic practice that brings together dimensions of expression and translates them into a simple act, taking into account the force of gravity.
Marion Baruch has partnered and exhibited in a number of prestigious European institutions, such as the Kunstmuseum Luzern, the Mamco in Geneva, the Magasin in Grenoble, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, the Mambo in Bologna, the Groninger Museum, the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Fri-Art Kunsthalle Fribourg, Kunst Werke Berlin, and Maga Gallarate.

Noah Stolz

Translated from Italian by Timothy Stroud.

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