Art has always been political, but the events of World War II gave rise to an entire generation of notably political artists. Rudolf Baranik is one of these painters, known for his outwardly dark, abstract compositions. He considered himself an activist artist, and he coined the term “social formalism” to characterize his work, as he saw his ideological views as an inseparable aspect of his art. His firsthand experience witnessing the horrors of World War II resides at the heart of his politically charged art. Homage to Munch III (1968) is perhaps the strongest statement of this influence, as it refers to the famous painting The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch, which had been widely displayed as a symbolic protest against the Vietnam War. Considering that Baranik was a major proponent of such opposition and that Homage to Munch III was created during this period of activism, this reference to The Scream amplifies his anti-war message. This project focuses on how art can be understood as “political,” the impact of World War II on Baranik personally and artistically, and how he can be seen as an exemplar of an entire generation of artists shaped by war, who changed the landscape of art.
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League, Ryan, "Rudolf Baranik and the Entanglement of Art and War" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 128.