Biography

Known for her inventive approaches to form and material, Maria Bartuszová (b. 1936, Prague, Czechoslovakia; d. 1996, Košice, Slovakia) created a prolific body of ethereal and evocative sculptures over the course of three decades. The Slovak artist developed a distinctive sculptural language that was guided by her own pioneering methods of casting plaster.

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The artist’s preliminary interest in casting was established during her studies at the Academy of Applied Arts, Prague, from where she graduated in 1961. Whilst at the academy she had specialised in ceramics and porcelain, mainly making hollow fragile forms, such as porcelain tea sets and vases.

Bartuszová’s career was generated within the context of Košice, where she had moved in 1963, working in intentional isolation. Due to the limitations of socialist Czechoslovakia in the Cold War period, she was also closed off from direct contact with European and global events. However, the artist was alert to artistic sources and the books in her library made reference to Constantin Brancusi, Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, amongst others.

During the 1960s, Bartuszová conceived the technique of gravistimulated modelling which guided the conceptual framework of her early sculptures. The process involved pouring plaster in a filled shape, typically balloons or tyres, and then pressing or binding the form by hand when the plaster began to harden. Underlining the importance of temporality to the artist’s work, with her experiments taking place across time, Bartuszová’s techniques also expressed the physical sensation of touch.

By the middle of the 1960s, the artist was focused on abstraction. She was led by her interest to find a rapid method of modelling pure, perfect forms. Her haptic sculptures conveyed ephemeral transient shapes found in nature. Sources included natural processes, such as the germination of a seed and the ripening of fruit, as well as raindrops and the wind. Towards the end of her career, Bartuszová began to place her works in the trees in her garden, in order to photograph them, which culminated in the artist displaying sculptures in outdoor settings as part of exhibitions of her work.

In the 1970s, Bartuszová’s methods evolved to concentrate on the effects of weight, resulting in the creation of soft plaster sculptures. These works were made by pressing hard objects onto the plaster form and binding them with rubber bands. The artist later considered the physical qualities of air and water when she began experimenting with pneumatic casting in the 1980s.

Throughout her life, the artist’s methods relied on intuition, play and meditation. Her materials and approaches are symbolic of the prevailing themes in her practice, relating to existence, reflection, growth and decay. ‘My breath is a part of the pulsating universe’, she commented. The techniques she mastered and returned to throughout her career contribute to the cyclical nature of her work, with forms and ideas overlapping at various points.

Bartuszová has had solo exhibitions at MoMA, Warsaw (2014); CC Centrum, Bratislava, Slovakia (2007); Slovak National Gallery Bratislava, Slovakia (2005); VLM Košice, Slovakia (1997); amongst others. Her work has been included in recent group exhibitions at Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany (2020); Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2020); Museum Susch, Zernez, Switzerland (2018); Tate St Ives, UK (2018); Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2018); Hepworth Wakefield Gallery, UK (2017); and Documenta, Kassel, Germany (2007). A major survey will be held at Tate Modern, London, in November 2024.

All research conducted by Gabriela Garlatyová, Curator of The Archive of Maria Bartuszová in Košice, and will be included in the artist’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné for publication in 2020.

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Works

Untitled, 1962–64

Bronze
29 x 10.5 x 10.5 cm (11 3/8 x 4 1/8 x 4 1/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Rain, 1963

Bronze and stone
97 x 45 x 32 cm (38 1/4 x 17 3/4 x 12 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Folded Figure, 1965

Plaster
17 x 19.5 x 12 cm (6 3/4 x 7 5/8 x 4 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1968–70

Plaster
19 x 13.5 x 12 cm (7 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Folded Figure, 1968

Bronze
15 x 40 x 38 cm (5 7/8 x 15 3/4 x 15 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1969–70

Paper
29.5 x 29.5 x 4.5 cm (11 5/8 x 11 5/8 x 1 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1972

Plaster
17 x 29 x 22.5 cm (6 3/4 x 11 3/8 x 8 7/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Dedinské strechy, 1972

Aluminium
91 x 66 x 12 cm (35 7/8 x 26 x 4 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, c.1974

Ink on paper
21 x 14.5 cm (8 1/4 x 5 3/4 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1982

Stone and plaster
16 x 19.5 x 19.3 cm (6 1/4 x 7 5/8 x 7 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Four-Part Sculpture III, c.1983

Plaster
29 x 28 x 25 cm (11 3/8 x 11 1/8 x 9 7/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1984

Plaster and stone
11 x 41 x 19 cm (4 3/8 x 16 1/8 x 7 1/2 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Rebound Torso, 1984

Bronze
42 x 33 x 32 cm (16 1/2 x 13 x 12 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1985

Plaster
30.5 x 14.5 x 11 cm (12 1/8 x 5 3/4 x 4 3/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Untitled, 1985–87

Plaster and string
27 x 36 x 24.5 cm (10 5/8 x 14 1/8 x 9 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

Four-Part Sculpture, 1986–87

Plaster
58 x 24 x 24.5 cm (22 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 9 5/8 in)
Courtesy: © The Archive of Maria Bartuszová, Košice

  • Untitled, 1962–64
  • Rain, 1963
  • Folded Figure, 1965
  • Untitled, 1968–70
  • Folded Figure, 1968
  • Untitled, 1969–70
  • Untitled, 1972
  • Dedinské strechy, 1972
  • Untitled, c.1974
  • Untitled, 1982
  • Four-Part Sculpture III, c.1983
  • Untitled, 1984
  • Rebound Torso, 1984
  • Untitled, 1985
  • Untitled, 1985–87
  • Four-Part Sculpture, 1986–87

Press

Art Basel Viewing Rooms: Editorial Selections

Ocula Magazine

June 2020

Review: A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, Muzeum Susch

Kasia Redzisz and Francesco Tenaglia, Mousse

March 2019

Lives of the Artists: Maria Bartuszová

Gabriela Garlatyová, Tate Etc.

May 2017

Review: Maria Bartuszová, MoMA Warsaw

Noemi Smolik, ArtForum

February 2015

Exhibitions

Maria Bartuszová

6 April21 May 2016

Books

Maria Bartuszová: Provisional Forms

Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw

2015

Sochárky

Slovenská Národná Galéria, Bratislava, Slovakia

2015

Maria Bartuszová: Sochárskie Práce I.

Krajská organizácia ZSVU v Košiciach

1988

News

Maria Bartuszová

Tate Modern, London

Maria Bartuszová

in ‘Au Rendez-vous des Amis’, Pinakothek Der Moderne, Munich

Maria Bartuszová

in ‘Untitled, 2020: Three Perspectives on the Art of the Present’, Punta della Dogana, Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Maria Bartuszová, Birgit Jürgenssen & Hannah Wilke

in ‘A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women’, Muzeum Susch, Switzerland

Maria Bartuszová, Birgit Jürgenssen, Michelle Stuart, Dorothea Tanning & Hannah Wilke

in ‘Virginia Woolf’, Tate St Ives, Cornwall

Maria Bartuszová

in ‘Disobedient Bodies’, Hepworth Wakefield

Maria Bartuszová

in ‘Sochárky’, East Slovak Gallery, Kosice

Maria Bartuszová: Provisional Forms

MoMA Warsaw

Maria Bartuszová

in ‘The Promises of the Past’, Centre Pompidou, Paris