Endre Tót

° 1937

Lives in Cologne (DE), born in Sümeg (HU).

The Hungarian painter, draughtsman, performer and conceptual artist Endre Tót asserted himself as a designer of artists' books and is one of the most active practitioners of the Mail Art movement. From the beginning of his studies at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 1958 he came into conflict with the prevailing doctrine of socialist realism, which caused him to be expelled from his studies. In 1959 he was admitted to the College of Applied Arts in Budapest in the mural studio. He tried to employ informal art and used unconventional techniques and methods with which he wanted to approach the vocabulary of Pop Art and Minimal Art in his drawings and coloured calligraphies. At the same time he freed himself from painting in favour of the Zero idea, which allowed him to develop the ideas of 'joy' as a performance artist.

In the early 1960s Tót expressed his spontaneous feelings in lyrical collages and white paintings that refer to calligraphies from the Far East. He participated in exhibitions of the Iparterv group, which were declared 'unacceptable' by official circles but later identified as the beginning of the Hungarian neo-avant-garde. The initial restrictions were due to their rejection of socialist realism and the traditions of Hungarian fine arts. Out of resistance, he increasingly chose conceptual arts and supported the Zero tendency, which marked an important turning point for his later works. His hectic desire for modernity and contemporaneity ultimately resulted in blank canvases, which he called My Unpainted Canvasses.

From the 1970s onwards he began to develop his ideas about 'nothing' and 'emptiness', which have since become the basis of his works. He created black areas that represent a missing painting and challenged visitors with enigmatic titles. He reflected not only the crisis of painting but also that of the institution, the museum. He experimented with the visualisation of 'nothing' and the aesthetics of disappearance. He made books with almost invisible text with zeros printed on it. The absurdity of communication in a dictatorial country became a central theme in his oeuvre. In his printed materials he states: “We are glad when we are happy.” The basic media he uses are telegrams, postcards, newspaper advertisements, copiers and banners.

TOTalZEROS is part of a series of works based on the linguistic character '0', with a broad meaning within the philosophical, social and political spectrum. Since 'zero' can also be read as the letter 'O', the middle sound of his name, he played with his own identity by signing his work with a 'zero'. Later he began to multiply zeros on canvas to create an ornament that references the monotonous drabness of daily life in communist Hungary.

With his conceptual works he literally overcame the Iron Curtain during the 1970s by sending envelopes with absurd telegrams and letters in zero code, which are exhibited in Paris, Berlin and Jerusalem. Completely in the open spirit of the Mail Art movement he managed to connect East and West during the Cold War despite the presence of the 'Wall'. 


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