Vera Molnár, born Vera Gács on January 5, 1924 in Budapest, is the great French artist of Hungarian origin who pushed abstraction to the point of poetry, continuing in her experimental way Homage to the Square by Josef Albers, figure of the Bauhaus . By becoming French, Vera Molnár became Véra Molnar, the accents changed places and syllables! We learned, through his gallery, that this figure in the history of art celebrated by artists died this morning of Thursday, December 7 in Paris, just before reaching his 100th birthday.
Close to geometric abstraction, this artist of the beauty of chance is considered the pioneer of digital art and algorithmic art. In her very long artistic career which the years have not interrupted, this admirer of Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee, this close friend of François Morellet has used a wide diversity of materials and supports. This witty woman drew, pasted, painted, designed sculptures, programs, photographs, created installations, prints and artists' books.
Her diaries had accompanied her work since 1976. She still spoke with great humor and precision, in March 2012, to Amely Deiss and Vincent Baby (Vera Molnár, A retrospective 1942-2012, Bernard Chauveau publisher, Paris). “Mom was a slightly snobbish bourgeoisie who had Alma Mahler as her role model. She dressed like Alma Mahler, she wanted to behave like Alma Mahler, she loved art like Alma Mahler. I had an uncle who was a Sunday painter (he had a Rembrandt painter's coat made). I went to his house to admire him, he painted clearings, undergrowth with dancing nymphets (...) The smell of the oil paint, the little green and yellow leaves enchanted me (.. .) It was from this uncle that I received as a gift at the end of a school year a magnificent wooden box of pastels which I took during the summer to our country house near Lake Balaton and all In the evenings I sat in the garden to draw a sunset on this lake.
Of this “perfect happiness”, the little girl has the artist’s intuition. “Very quickly, I realized that this was going to go very badly because there were four colors: the grass that went down to the lake, green; a blue for the color of the lake; a second gray-blue for the sky and a darker color for the volcanic mountains on the other side of the lake. The days go by, the chalks wear out... How to last all summer? “So, I invented a program: how do we translate to other colors? I decided to take a color further to the right of the first four used, and the following week, I took the neighbors to the left, four more colors. I did this for quite a long time, which resulted in making variations without knowing what they were,” explained Vera Molnár, who wondered about the magic square filled with numbers in Dürer's engraving Melancholia (1514), a square of 4 x 4 boxes in which numbers ranging from 1 to 16 are inscribed. Its flexible geometry has the slightly offbeat tenderness of the abstract landscapes of Paul Klee (Architecture of variations, 1927). Color came to life there, like in the monochrome petals of a flower (Partition of a surface of 9 squares, 1995).
Also read: The best quotes from Vera Molnar
Through his early desire and his meeting at the Beaux-Arts in Budapest with Ferenc (François) Molnár, a separate path was drawn very early which led them to Paris in 1948. Art and science would nourish their debates constant, making their marriage a very contradictory and dynamic artistic duo. At the age of 16, she chose her destiny. “I decided all of a sudden that I no longer believed in God, I no longer wanted to go to church, I no longer wanted to play the piano, I wanted to do painting and I decided to do my life in France. First I imagined that France, Paris, was the homeland of art and then I read somewhere where someone explained to me the beauty of the idea of the French Republic, not France, the Republic. I wanted to live in the French Republic,” this rebellious high school student announced to her family, shocked to see her drawing (male!) nudes at the Sturm art school in Budapest. A communist from her youth, she completely abandoned communism after the execution of the Hungarian Prime Minister, communist, Laszlo Rajk, for “espionage and high treason” in 1949. Vera Molnár would then take more than 15 years before returning to Hungary.
Young Hungarian students Vera and Ferenc Molnár first visited Rome on a Hungarian study grant, stayed there for six months, then arrived in Paris in December 1947 with a six-day tourist visa. Vera's uncle, Alexandre (Sándor) Trauner has an important position in the film industry and has lived in Paris since 1929. They introduced them "to the table of Hungarian artists" at Café Select, alongside István Beöthy and his wife Anna Steiner, by Jozsef Csáky and Monda by Misztrik. The meeting in 1957 with the young François Morellet will be decisive. “They seemed to be the one and only masters, systematically and without compromise, of all genres without exception (...) Their research is based on scientific methods, on psychology, on the theory of Gestalt”, s enthused Morellet, precursor of minimalism (1926-2016) whom François Molnár introduced to his compatriot, Victor Vasarely, who in turn became his great friend.
“Vera Molnár was 99 years old. A pioneer of computer coding in art, the artist, born in 1924 in Budapest, was currently working alongside Christian Briend, curator at the National Museum of Modern Art, on a major exhibition which will open in February 2024,” underlined the Center Pompidou in its press release marked by “deep sadness”. 3 black squares, 3 gray rectangles, 5 blue rectangles (1950); Four randomly distributed items (1959); 9 red squares (1966): the titles are strict, the artist was lively and warm. Part of the trend of concrete art, Vera Molnár's production is based on simple geometric shapes and plays on effects of visual perception (Structure of quadrilateral on orange background, 1967).
“Co-founder, in 1961, of the Visual Art Research Group (Grav) with François Morellet and her husband, the artist and researcher François Molnár in particular, Vera Molnár was, in 1968, one of the first artists to make of the computer his favorite tool, using algorithms. Already in 1959, she created her 'imaginary machine', a simple program which drives a transformation of forms, combining instructions and prohibitions, deciding on the shapes, colors, textures, materials, supports and drawing on a roll the proposals that “she holds back”, underlined the Parisian museum. She establishes the methodology for creating algorithmically generated images and is passionate about the “future science of art.” As such, she in turn excites the younger generations about digital art.
Vera Molnár presented this winter One Hundred (or a Thousand) Ways of Doing, in the new space of the 8 4 gallery (13, rue d'Alexandrie in Paris, 2nd) from October 14, 2023 and until January 20, 2024. “ This disciple of Piet Mondrian and Sonia Delaunay is celebrating her 100th birthday in the spotlight by being the subject of a remarkable exhibition,” the Parisian gallery already welcomed. “The artist, a true pioneer of digital art, has continued in recent months to draw and vary the pattern of her small crosses until covering an entire wall of Gallery 8 4. One hundred crosses which symbolize as many years spent on Earth rethinking the codes of contemporary art, infusing a 'suspect of disorder' into each of its appearances. This exhibition is no exception to the rule, exploring the thousand ways of doing and undoing, of constructing and deconstructing, ultimately retaining only the beauty of chance. »
In April 2022, the gallery launched its new creation, “2% disorder in co-operation”. It was from 1968 that Vera Molnár began using a computer. But it is always in his brain that ideas germinate; the computer does not create the works for him. It is a fast and efficient tool about which she was able to declare: “A large number of my works are carried out and often executed by computer. But if they have some value, or if, on the contrary, they have none, the machine is in no way responsible. The computer, as astonishing as it may be, is for the moment only a tool which allows the painter to be freed from the burdens of a sclerotic classical heritage. Its immense combinatorial capacity facilitates the systematic investigation of the infinite field of possibilities.
Since the 1990s and until today, Véra Molnar's practice shows a sort of permanent game with the computer. Establishing a protocol, she thus produces images of all kinds, composing them in an entirely subjective manner, by hand and with total modal freedom of construction, choice of shapes and materials. His gallery kept the hope of seeing it centenary.