Newport Beach, California, United States
About Marton Vario
Born March 15, 1943 in Szekelyudvarhely, Transylvania, Hungary (now Romania), Marton Varo studied sculpture at Ion Andreescu Institute of Arts in Cluj, Romania from 1960 to 1966. In 1970, he moved to Debrecen, Hungary, where he completed several sculptures for public places and was awarded the Munkacsy Prize in 1984.
Receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1988, Varo became affiliated with the University of California, Irvine, studying the relationship between architecture and sculpture. In 1990, he became the Artist in Residence for a public art project in the City of Brea, California.
Ever since, Varo has been working in an open-air studio at UC Irvine, California, carving his sculptures for public places throughout the US and abroad.
Varo lives and works in the USA, in California and Florida, spending summers working in Carrara, Italy.
A brief overview of sculpture from the Renaissance to modern times with an insight into the work of world-renowned sculptor Marton Varo.
AWARDS & SCHOLARSHIPS
1991 Ladanyi Foundation, New York
1989 Fulbright Scholarship, University of California, Irvine
1984 Munkacsy Prize
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2008 Galerie du Soleil, Naples, Florida
1994 New York, Consulate of Republic of Hungary
1987 Cultural Center, Lage, Germany
1986 Behr Mobelhaus, Stuttgart, Germany
1986 Satoraljaujhely, Hungary
1986 City Hall, Gerlingen, Germany
1986 Exhibition Hall, Herrenberg, Germany
1985 Keszthely, Hungary
1985 Dunaujvaros, Hungary
1984 Vigado Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
1981 Mucsarnok, Exhibition Hall, Budapest, Hungary
1978 Mora Ferenc Museum, Szeged, Hungary
1977 Studio Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
1976 Nyiregyhaza, Hungary
1975 Studio Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
1970 Mamaia, Romania
1969 Oradea, Romania
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
1998 Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
1994 La Quinta Sculpture Garden, La Quinta, California
1994 West Week/Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, California
1994 LA Art ’94, Los Angeles, California
1993 LA Art ’93, Los Angeles, California
1993 Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, California
1993 Jansen-Perez Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1991 Hungarian Spring Festival, Santa Barbara, California
1990 Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton, California
1986 Bronzetto, Piccola Scultura, Padua, Italy
1986 Recent Hungarian Art, Canada
1985 International Exhibition for Wood Sculpture, Nagyatad, Hungary
1985 Central Finland Museum of Art, Jyvaskyla, Finland
1984 13 Artists from Hungary, Stockholm Art Fair, Sweden
1984 Tendencias, Madrid, Spain
1983 Debrecen Biennale, Summer Show, Award of the Show, Debrecen, Hungary
1983 40 Creative Years, Budapest, Hungary
1982 Konsthall Sodertalje, Sweden
1979 Hungarian Small Sculpture & Graphics, Moscow, USSR
1978 4th International Small Sculpture Exhibition, Budapest, Hungary
1978 Studio of Young Artists at the Grand Palais, Paris, France
1977 Artists of the Studio of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
1976 Szeged Biennale Summer Show, Award of the Show, Szeged, Hungary
1976 Open Air Sculpture Show, Antwerp, Belgium
1967 Studio of Young Artists of Hungary, LeHavre, France
1966 Spring Student Festival, Cluj, Romania
1988 Symposium: The Situation of Sculpture and Painting At The End of the Twentieth
Century, Delphi, Greece
1988 Symposium for Marble, Volos, Greece
1977 Symposium, Awarded Prize of City of Burgas, Burgas, Bulgaria
1972 Symposium for Marble, Prilep, Macedonia (then part of Yugoslav Federation)
SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
“Annunciation”, Ave Maria, Florida
Garden of Hope and Courage, Naples, Florida
Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
TCU, Fort Worth, Texas
Kyongnam Province Parlament, Korea
NTNU Institute of Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas
Tustin Ranch Marketplace, Tustin, California
Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, California
Pereira Sculpture Garden, UCI, Irvine, California
Plaza of the Americas, Dallas, Texas
Peace Memorial, Palm Desert, California
Breaking Free, City Hall, Brea, California
Anavros Sculpture, City of Volos, Greece
Central Finland Museum of Art, Jyvaskyla, Finland
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland
Collection of the Ministry of Culture, Budapest, Hungary
National Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
Mora Ferenc Museum, Szeged, Hungary
Deri Museum, Debrecen, Hungary
Government Administration Building, Debrecen, Hungary
Kalvin Plaza, Debrecen, Hungary
Berettyoujfalu City Hall, Hungary
Congress Convention Center, Budapest, Hungary
City of Burgas, Bulgaria
City of Debrecen, Hungary
Debrecen Clock Tower, Hungary
Szombathely City Hall, Hungary
Debrecen New Post Office, Hungary
Mateszalka Textile Factory, (BFK)
Berettyoujfalu Elzett Works, Hungary
City Sculpture Garden, Prilep, Macedonia, Yugoslavia
Dr. Petru, Groza City, Romania
Muzeul Tarii Crisurilor, Oradea, Romania
BY Edward Lucie-Smith
Any sculptor working in the Western tradition must be aware of the heritage of the Greeks. The question is, what is he to do with it? Is he to embrace it, reject it, distort it or in some way subvert it? Marton Varo comes of Hungarian stock. He was born and brought up in a frontier region, in a part of Transylvania which was then Hungarian territory and which is now part of Romania. This must surely have sharpened his feelings about the finer nuances of cultural similarity and cultural difference. The region he comes from has other characteristics as well. Like other parts of Central Europe it has a strongly developed craft tradition. During summers spend in a small village in Transylvania he absorbed the local skills in carving wood. In addition, since the area had once been a Roman province, he absorbed the impact of Roman provincial sculpture, which survives abundantly in Transylvania. These influences were to do much to shape his work.
There was also the fact, however, that he was an artist fascinated by modernism, who was forced at first to make his way under a communist government. The twentieth century exemplars he turned to were artists like Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson and Isamu Noguchi. Of all these, the Romanian-born Brancusi was obviously the nearest in spirit and in cultural tradition. One remarkable thing about Brancusi was the way in which he combined elements from folk tradition with an extremely refined and sophisticated approach to form. Another was his sheer skill in handling materials: stone, wood and metal. And yet another was the way in which he borrowed ideas from ancient civilizations and managed to turn them into something entirely new. Moore, most of all in the early part of his career, when he carved sculpture directly from the block, and Noguchi, Brancusi’s only pupil, shared some of the same qualities.
Varo, however, did not share the taste of these sculptors for ancient sculpture in its most primitive and simplifying phase. His great love was the developed Greek art of the mid-fifth century B.C., and especially for the sculptures associated with the name of Phidias, architect of the Parthenon. A major part of Varo’s sculptural output consists of draped female torsos and female figures. These are obviously inspired by Greek sculptures of similar subjects, but they are never merely imitative. Varo comes to subjects of this sort through the cult of the fragment which has existed in European sculpture since the time of the Renaissance — one recalls Michelangelo’s reaction to Belvedere Torso: “This is the work of a man who knew more than Nature itself.” This cult intensified at the beginning of the present century in the work of Rodin and Maillol, it is possible to catch echoes of both these sculptures in some the things which Varo himself produces. An example is the limestone figure Breaking Free, where a beautiful young woman seems to be in the process of stepping out of the block which until then has contained her.
The idea that the figure actually lives already within the stone, and that a sculptor’s task is to free it rather than create it is once again something which originated, not with the Greeks but with Michelangelo.
Varo, nevertheless, treats the idea of the fragmentary in a much more radical fashion than any of his predecessors. One of the striking things about the Parthenon marbles, as one now sees them displayed in the British Museum, is that the majority of the sculptures rescued from the ruined temple are reliefs rather than carvings in three dimensions. The Parthenon frieze offers complete slabs, but also shattered fragments, where the coherence of the design is lost. This effect becomes more marked in fragments from other Greek monuments, where the reliefs have been more roughly treated. One example, also in the British Museum, is the frieze from the mausoleum of Halicarnassus, also in the British Museum, which is supposed to have been designed, at least in part, by Scopas, one of the leading Greek sculptors in the generation which followed that of Phidias. Varo has taken hints from these shattered slabs to create his own reliefs, which are abstractions based on Greek drapery. The intermittent, stuttering rhythms he creates are from Nevelson, who is the most unexpected of his declared influences.
Nevelson was the poet of a modern city, New York. It was the perpetuated turmoil of construction and demolition in New York which both inspired her most typical sculptures and actually supplied her with her basic materials. Varo uses stone, not wood, and, it must be said, uses it in a much more virtuoso fashion than Nevelson ever attempted. One pleasure to be derived from his work is pleasure in the sheer skill with which intractable substances are handled. One danger with virtuosity is that it tends to blind the spectator to the qualities actually inherent in materials — in much nineteenth century sculpture, carved by extremely skillful artisans following models made by others in plaster or clay. Stone simply loses its stoniness, and becomes something bland and slippery. Here the way blocks are fitted together, some carved, others completely unadorned, serves as a constant reminder of the nature of the stone itself.
There is another factor as well. Some of Varo’s reliefs of this type look a little like the old engravings which record the condition of the Greek monuments before the archaeologists got at them. Carved blocks were often incorporated at random, sideways or upside down, into later structures. A case in point was the medieval fortress at Bodrum, formerly Halicarnassus.
These echoes and cross-references make Varo a typically post-modern artist. Post-Modernism has been defined as the propensity to recombine elements from existing artistic languages in new ways, rather than striving to invent languages which are completely new. What he lacks, fortunately, is the cynicism which informs so much Post-Modernist art. All his work shows his eye for finely calculated formal relationships. But always, even in the works which are apparently entirely non-figurative, there is a feeling for flesh — in particular for the ripeness of the female body. The fact that Varo prefers to depict this draped rather than nude is perhaps a symbol of his reverence for the mysteries this image contains.
Carlos Reid, M.B.A., M.S. & M.O.T.