József Jakovits (1909 – 1994) was the leading sculptor among Hungary’s Modernist art group, the European School, whose brilliant program of exhibitions, lectures, and publications lasted from 1945 until 1948 when Communist cultural czars crushed it.
Jakovits was an autodidact inspired by Surrealism and Primitivism. His sculpture resonated with primal sexuality and spirituality, blending genders, animal and human characteristics, and sacred and secular themes. This stance was inherently political in conservative and communist Hungary, and Jakovits’s overtly anti-totalitarian work was even more intolerable in Hungary. Grasping an opportunity to emigrate to the United States in 1965, Jakovits settled in New York City 1965.
Jakovits resettled in Budapest in 1987 and received some belated recognition. However, his work and that of the European School in general-has still has not received the attention it deserves. This exhibition, produced with the art foundation Alma on Dobbin, is the first comprehensive exhibition of Jakovits’s work outside Hungary. It consists chiefly of works in the Müller-Keithly Collection, New York, together with loans from the Jakovits Estate, Budapest, and other private lenders in the United States and Hungary. The fully bilingual English-Hungarian book co-published to accompany the exhibition is the first in English devoted to Jakovits and the first to bring together and illustrate in color the artist’s sculpture and his two-dimensional works on paper and on canvas.