Communist ideals in northern Dutch Art
In the fifties and sixties in the northern Dutch province of Groningen, far from the international art centers and in the shadow of the art movement De Ploeg, a new generation of artists arose. They created varied and interesting artworks with an idealistic coherence: from figurative to abstract, from environmental art to land art and from minimalism to abstract.
The sculptors Karl Iljitsj Pelgrom (1927-1994) and Edu Waskowsky (1934-1976) were among the artists who settled in the province of Groningen around 1960 in order to further develop the expression of their artistic beliefs. Their communist ideals convinced them that the artistic avant-garde ought to identify their practice as "artists for the people". Traditional art was academic, and reflected the capitalist bourgeois civilization that was responsible for centuries of oppression of the proletariat. Far from this decadent bourgeois art these sculptors in Groningen discerned primitive, elemental forms that emerged organically from society. It inspired them to create sculptures defined by primitive attributes, like totem poles. But the local population would know nothing of the art that was meant for them, so within a week a large sculpture, which Pelgrom had donated to the community, was thrown into a ditch.
Although the Groningen people considered the ideas of the artists grossly exaggerated, they had, however, a demonstrable influence. At last there were artists who experienced and researched the problem of art and society and made it a central subject in their thinking and their creative processes. According to the artists, people should not visit art in the museums, but art should visit the people.
This ideal resulted in the largest exhibition ever held in the Netherlands: Beeld en Route in 1967. About two hundred sculptures by sixty-three artists (including Siep van den Berg, Constant, Ad Dekkers, Ger van Elk, Cornelius Rogge, Arthur Sproncken, Peter Struycken, Carel Visser and of course Karl Pelgrom and Edu Wakowsky) were placed along the route of Ter Apel through Bellingwolde and Finsterwolde to Midwolda, emerging on the Grote Markt in Groningen City.
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