Incognito

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Curator, Text: Lívia Takács
Photos: Réka Hegyháti, courtesy of NACO and the artist

On the 1st of January, the sculptor Levente Leitner started to create a series of super-sensitive masks. Passing on his previous quarantine experiences, re-essentializing the concept of an object that presents both a practical and an awful aspect of the recent pandemic, referring back simultaneously to its original, gracious and exalted purpose. According to his plans, the installation will release the perfect mood swing paraphrase.

The exhibition of the young sculptor showcased half a dozen artworks connected to his previous works by several threads. According to his own belief, the cornerstone of his working method is that the finished piece of art should be ambiguous and open, humorous and at the same time ironic, reflecting on social issues. Leitner already talked about this specific attitude in connection with the work presented at last year’s Derkovits scholarship holders’ exhibition; a box-like but open-framed mask was exhibited there, sporting

a huge Pinocchio nose, through whose eyes visitors were able to look out into a reality outside of reality1 – Kriszta Dékei

The exhibited material was inspired by the so-called Kalkriese mask found at the site of the Battle of Teutoburg. In the battle that took place in 9 AD, the Germanic tribal confederation led by the commander Arminius faced the significantly larger Roman legions, believed to be invincible until that very moment. However, under the leadership of Arminius, it became possible to destroy almost the entire Roman army (numbering twenty thousand) in just three days.

The type of masks represented at the exhibition, covering almost the entire face, had to be worn by the barbarians serving in the Roman army – not so much in battle, but rather during parades. The installation of the helmets with masks evokes the way of presenting materials found at archaeological excavations or the spoils of war when the winners impale the enemy’s head on the tip of the spear. The titles of the sculptures repeatedly refer to the battle (there was the berserker fighting in a frenzied trance, cultivating the cult of the bear, the wolf and the wild boar – such as it appears on Trajan’s column a hundred years later), or in a broader sense to the war; there was an infantry and there was a fury mask, and also a black body armour, crowned with a wreath of victory above the mask. The helmet decorations indicated the person’s rank and tribal (legion) affiliation simultaneously.

Already during his university years, Leitner worked a lot for movie projects, as a background set designer and costume designer. In many cases, the armour and weapons used in movies are not heavy: the sculptures on display have also been made of easy-to-mould resin. Since the artist has been using harmful and polluting plastics for a long time, in 2018, he created a separate project with Dániel Sallay, titled “Urethanea”. In this “desolate, dark place” there are people who depend on organic polymers and then identify themselves as “urethaneans” who only consume plastics, thus becoming disposable products and also slaves. The world of hybrid beings living in Urethanea is manifested in these sculptures. There is something unsettlingly depressing in this world of plastic put on a pedestal, even if humour peeks in. For instance, the capped end of a PET bottle peeks out of the skull of one of them, as if prepared for any chance of refilling, be it a new consumption trend, a changed political slogan, or a new thing to hate or love. These artworks are reminders of a fictional war and are fed by our very ordinary experiences, while our days racing towards a climate catastrophe are distinguished from each other by nothing else than the constantly recurring emergency situations and the various alternative interpretations of reality.

16th September – 15th October 2022.

1 Kriszta Dékei: Egy fiktív háború leletei, Leitner Levente: Inkognító, 2022, Magyar Narancs Online, link: https://magyarnarancs.hu/kritika/egy-fiktiv-haboru-leletei-252635

Nagyházi Contemporary Art Gallery (NACO) represents Hungarian contemporary artists. Our goal is to introduce contemporary art and strengthen its international and national presence and become the meeting point among contemporary artists, art lovers and supporters.

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