Imre Bukta: Another Hungary, a large show at Budapest’s Mucsarnok (or Kunsthalle), takes you through the Hungarian painter’s well-known older works as well as new paintings, installations, and videos. Themes of rural life, of a Hungary outside of Budapest, run through his work with an emphasis of agrarian life, for example through the incorporation of common farm materials, and local community, thus the title. This exhibition shows the skill and distinct vision of an intelligent artist that it would be incorrect to dismiss as ‘merely’ a folk artist. As an exhibition, it would have been stronger for a better editing of the works. It felt as if everything the artist had ever made was thrown up on the walls, but that’s another story.
The presentation of these themes is highly sophisticated, whether it be in the integration of video into an installation or in his complex, worked-over board compositions, whose sophistication belie the rustic materials (straw, nails, corn) and aesthetic. Perhaps most of all, I liked how Bukta combines both a real feeling for the people and world he presents with intellectual distance. This can be seen in the irony of the word “Nostalgy” carved into the knife balanced on the plain country table with its video image of meat beneath.
While it uses symbols of rural Hungary, this is no glorified folk art, but something very contemporary and intelligent. In both the older, iconic work of the artist above and the recent work below , there is (ahem) a certain edge to his work, but any coldness of dry irony is softened by an honest, sympathetic portrayal of a place that resists stereotypes.