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Krisztián Frey

Krisztián Frey, before he chose to defect, was one of the prominent members of the neo-avant-garde Iparterv generation, which was hallmarked by such artists as Imre Bak, Ilona Keserü, Dóra Maurer or Endre Tót, and which made its public debut in Hungary in the mid-1960s to make art history in 1968–1969 with a revolutionary double exhibition at a hidden culture hall of IPARTERV, a company owned by the socialist state. These were the few magical years when, after the devastation of Second World War and socialist realism, the youth of the Hungarian art scene once again picked up the rhythm of Western progressive art, which had been dominated by nonrepresentational painting.

Frey came from a wealthy bourgeois family, which the Communist regime branded as “class-alien". His father, a dentist with a praxis in the countryside and a serious erudition in the humanities, was nevertheless able to provide a secure livelihood for the family and support his son, who chose a career in painting. Krisztián Frey, who luckily survived the devastation of the Second World War, also applied to the University of Medicine, the Academy of Fine Arts and then even to the Department of Mathematics, but was rejected in each case as a “class-alien”. He read art history books, made sketches, painted portraits and drew copies from American picture magazines. According to László Lakner, his most important friend from his youth, this was more to his benefit, as he was free from the restrictive approach of the obligatory Soviet doctrine and realistic “academism”: “He was a bit older than us, had just finished his military service and wanted to reapply. Bernáth talked him out of it. Luckily for him, because he then shed all his complexes and started painting from a position the rest of us would only years later.”3 Lakner referred in his recollection to the scriptural characteristics – the written, calligraphic gestures embedded in the surface of the image – that Frey was experimenting with at this time, in the 1950s. His early sketches and studies also include inscriptions in German, Italian, ancient Greek and even Hebrew.

In the late 1950s, Frey lived and worked in Alsóbélatelep on the shore of Lake Balaton. It was also during these years that Frey met some young Hungarian artists of key importance in the period, Tibor Csernus, a virtuoso of (sur)naturalist painting after socialist realism, and László Lakner, a leading figure in neo-avant-garde circles. This was a special transitional period in the history of Hungarian art. The grip of orthodox Stalinism was relieved for a moment by the 1956 revolution, but the retaliations after the war of independence meant that Western influences could only seep into Hungary through a strong filter, and only after a long delay. Abstract art was considered a forbidden category, its practitioners were mocked by the press, and the authorities used administrative means to harass them, prevented them from exhibiting and made it impossible for them to earn a living.

From 1963, a slackening of the strict cultural policy of banning was heralded by the cautious opening of the socialist system and János Kádár’s politics of consolidation and amnesty. This was the first time that it was possible to apply for a Western passport, which Frey did, allowing him to visit relatives living near Stuttgart. Having met the director of the Staatsgalerie and the owner of the Galerie Müller, he held his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the Galerie am Bohlweg in Braunschweig, Saxony, sending the material from home. It was at this time that he first saw abstract expressionist paintings and calligraphic paintings – including works by Cy Twombly – in person. The liberating trip to Germany in 1963 marked Frey’s first real period as a painter.

His first early series of paintings, Brief an Uschi [Letter to Orsi] (1963, private collection), a series of passionate abstract calligraphies on wide strips of paper, believed lost for a long time, could be interpreted as a love confession. These already show his later signature motifs: the whitish glaze-grey colour, the large inscriptions resembling handwriting and the spontaneous, explosive brushstrokes. In addition to his calligraphically rooted expression, Frey also returned to the scriptural image construction. The allusion to sexuality and vulgarity with the immediacy of toilet graffiti became one of Frey’s most important artistic devices from then on. Another defining characteristic of his work is the strong visuality of the written word balancing on the border of legibility.



2022    {SCRIPT:ABSTRACT} – Frey úr ír, Ludwig Kortárs Művészeti Múzeum,                        Budapest (HU)

2017    Frey Krisztián taxidriver painter, Art+Text Budapest Gallery, Budapest (HU)

2015    Art+Text Budapest Gallery, Budapest (HU)

2014    Art+Text Budapest Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1995    Retrospective, MHB, IMMO Art Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1995    Körmendi Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1994    Hungarian Cultural Institute, Prague (CZ)

1994    Pictography with Ildikó Várnagy, New-Delhi (IN)

1994    Retrospective, Ernst Museum, Budapest (HU)

1993    Sign language, I. [Pál Deim, István Haász, Ildikó Várnagy], House of                            Hungarian Culture, Berlin (DE)

1991    Signs from the 60s, Fészek Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1982    Stochastischer Suprematismus und stochastic Printart, Praxis dr. Adorjáni,                  Zürich (CH)

1981    Stochastischer Suprematismus, Städtischer Galerie zum Strauhof,

            Zürich (CH)

1980    Radierung, Praxis dr. Adorjáni, Zürich (CH)

1972    Galerie Schlégl, Zürich (CH)

1971    Kontakt Galerie La Fourmière, Zürich • Kunsthaus- Foyer, Zürich (CH)

1968    Budapesti Műszaki Egyetem, Münnich Ferenc Kollégium Központi Fizikai                    Kutató Intézet KISZ Klubja [with Endre Tót]  Budapesti Műszaki Egyetem,                    Irinyi József Kollégium, Budapest (HU)

1967    Vigyázó F. Művelődési Társaság, Rákosliget (HU)

1963    Galerie am Bohlweg, Braunschweig (DE)



2018   Illegal Informel, Art+Text Budapest Gallery, Budapest (HU)

2017   Westkunst - Ostkunst, Ludwig Museum, Budapest (HU)

1998   Hungarian neo-avantgarde's first, 1965- 1972, Szombathelyi                       Képtár, Szombathely (HU)

1998   Humanity and Values (Körmendi-Csák Collection), WIC Rotunda,               Wien (AT)

1997   Oil/canvas, Kunsthalle, Budapest (HU)

1996   Beyond art, Ludwig Museum, Budapest / Neue Galerie am                         Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz (AT)

1994   Hungarica. Hungarian art in the 80s, Hungarian Institue, Paris (FR)

1993   Variations on Pop Art: Chapters in the History of Hungarian Art,                   Ernst Museum, Budapest (HU) / Galerie Kubus, Hannover (NL)

1992   Reduktivismus. Abstraction in Polen, Tschechoslowakei und                       Ungarn 1950-1980, Museum Moderner Kunst, Wien (AT)

1992   Nature of the art, Fészek Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1991   60's. New efforts in the History of Hungarian Art, Hungarian                         National Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1987   Hungarian Art at the 20th century, Csók Képtár,

           Székesfehérvár (HU)

1981   Schreibkunst, Schulkunst, und Volkskunst in der                                         deutschsprachigen Schweiz 1548 bis (CH)

1980   Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zürich (CH)

1980   500 years in the Swiss Art, Városi Museum, Zürich (CH)

1980   Tendencies between 1970-1980, Óbuda Gallery, Budapest (HU)

1980   'IPARTERV' 68-80, IPARTERV székház Deák F. utcai kultúrt.

1979   M. Narodowe, Szczecin (PL)

1975   Ungarische Avantgarde, Nürnberg (DE)

1973   Realismus, Surrealismus, Neue Tendenzen,                                                 Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zürich (CH)

1973   Künstler der Galerie, Galerie Schlégl, Zürich (CH)

1972   Zürcher Künstler 1972, Helmház, Zürich (CH)

1970   Contemporary Hungarian Art, Arsenal, Poznań 

           G. BWA, Sopot M. Pomorza, Szczecin, G. BWA, Wrocław (PL)

1969   Központi Fizikai Kutató Intézet KISZ Klub, Budapest (HU)

1969   23 Künstler aus Ungarn, Kunsthalle, Bielefeld (DE)

1969   'Iparterv' II., IPARTERV Deák Ferenc utcai kultúrterem (HU)

1968   'Iparterv' I., IPARTERV Deák Ferenc utcai kultúrterem (HU)

1966   Zuglo-circle's exhibition , Ady Endre Művelődésii Otthon, Újpest

1963   Rippl-Rónai Museum, Kaposvár (HU)

1962   Rippl-Rónai Museum, Kaposvár (HU)

1962   II. Premi International Dibuix Joan Miro 1962, Centre d’Estudis                   d’Arte Contemporani, Barcelona (ES)

1960   Rippl-Rónai Museum, Kaposvár (HU)

1960   Balaton in the art, Művelődési Központ, Siófok (HU)

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