The Sarajevo-born, Paris-based artist Braco Dimitrijevic was probably the first Iron Curtain conceptual artist, breaking out in the 1970s with his "Casual Passer-by" series of giant black-and-white photographs of ordinary, anonymous people posted on facades and billboards in European cities.
Aside from its appealing whimsy, Passer-by pioneered by siting its activity in the public sphere, what is now called "relational esthetics."
Dimitrijevic has had scores of shows in Europe, including exhibitions at the Tate, the London ICA, the Kunsthalle Bern, Ludwig Museum in Cologne and MUMOK in Vienna. He has been in Documenta three times (1972, 1976 and 1993) and participated in the Venice Biennale five times (1976, 1982, 1990, 1993 and 2009).
Now, he has a good-looking survey exhibition at White Box on Broome Street (east of Bowery). The show, "Braco Dimitrijevic: Louvre Is My Studio, Street Is My Museum," Apr. 6-30, 2011, is organized by freelance curator Lara Pan.
The show includes large Passers-by banners (ca. $100,000) as well as smaller, vintage Passers-by prints (a bargain at $4,000). In the basement is a newer video work, Resurrection of Alchemists (2006), in which a "professor" -- Dimitrijevic -- speaks about "the importance of art in contemporary society." During the two-minute-long video, streaming stock and news quotes creep in at the bottom and sides of the video screen, until the speaker has been crowded out entirely.
At the gallery opening, Dimitrijevic cheerfully answered a few questions.
Walter Robinson: You're here with your wife Nena. How long have you been married?
Braco Dimitrijevic: 40 years!
How are you finding New York City?
I feel at home -- I've always thought New York was one of the most beautiful cities. All the pretentious star architects stayed in Europe.
Your wife said you are a joker -- do you have any good jokes?
A Yugoslav man got a job at a nuclear plant, polishing the pipes. His friend asked him, "Aren't you afraid it might explode?" No, the man said, I don't care -- it's not mine.
Do you like the way your show looks here at White Box?
I like the simple architecture; my larger Passer-by photos fit perfectly in the space.
Are you still making Passer-bys?
Yes, yesterday I met a good one.
Do you have any message for your fans in the U.S.?
Tell them I love them and they should remember the beginnings of SoHo. When I came here in 1975 for my first show at Sperone Westwater, someone said to me, "Come upstairs for a drink." He had a nice face, so I went, and he held out his hand, and said, "My name is Gordon Matta-Clark."
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.