Jurica Pušenjak
Bačva Gallery (Meštrović pavilion)
April 6-April 10, 2022

The opening of the exhibition by JURICA PUŠENJAK, HEROES will be on Wednesday, April 6 at 7pm, in Bačva Gallery, Home of HDLU (Meštrović pavilion).

“It is still very demanding to deal with World War II in our country. The liberation that came after the war was first romanticized and used as a lever of the socialist state system while (rightly) emphasizing the role of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Due to this, Oslobođenje became associated with the socialist state system and then relativized with its fall. Anti-fascism was thus also relativized, and I do not have to spell out the further consequences of this for you.

Within such a social context at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, the still young painter Jurica Pušenjak began to create his Monument to the Heroes of the National Liberation War, a hybrid work, that is, a painting object. It features 1315 portraits of the holders of the Order of the People’s Hero of Yugoslavia, according to the data from the Anthology of People’s Heroes of Yugoslavia, i.e., its third, complete edition from 1982. The reverse of the Monument is completely black. This colour is associated with the tragic end of numerous people’s heroes during the war, their fate in later society, when they were left to oblivion and their busts were removed from public spaces and their names from institutions. A colour that is, among other things, associated with fascism.

But black is also the colour of the land the partisans trampled and liberated (as the artist himself always points out) and the colour of rebirth. The colour of the fertile soil full of new sprouts and the colour used at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey to mark the origin of the universe. Pusenjak’s Monument pulled the people’s heroes from the soil and oblivion, and I hope this marks a milestone on the path of their revaluation, on the path of the anti-fascist struggle they showed us, a struggle that is, obviously, still going on.

Numerous colourful faces on this work create a pop art-like impression. The People’s Liberation War also had a phase of kitschy, mostly propaganda, interpretations, most often in movies. Such movies, such as The Battle of the Neretva, served as Pušenjak’s inspiration for this work. Someone smart will proudly notice that his concept is just a “simulation of a simulation”. Still, I’m not nearly as smart. The colourful spectacle of the distant war and the darkness into which the war later fell (and from which it was originally born, and from which it will be reborn) are two equal sides of this work. They point to the duality of memory and the split in man and the society that man creates.

There is a reason society chooses to idealize or demonize certain historical figures or events. Collective imagination is what makes a community more stable (provides it with shared values), but also more susceptible to manipulation. Therefore one should constantly undermine the myth of the need for some stability. Put dynamite in the cracks of the concrete construction of the ruling ideology. This meant, at one point, rejecting pathetic and kitschy film spectacles like Kozara, Neretva or Sutjeska and giving precedence to powerful war prose (say, my favourite, Vitomil Zupan). But this also means reaching for their kitsch again, at a time when it can become a weapon of resistance against the system. For nothing, not even society can live in stagnation but only in constant change, and it can overcome its own limitations through change. The vision of the transformation of society offered by this work is cyclical, as emphasized by the double symbolism of black as the colour of death and birth.

Krleža used to say (as evidenced in Matvejević’s Conversations) that no monument should be erected if it is not going to be demolished at least twice. Because truly valid ideas are dangerous for the status quo and the rulers of society. But you do not have to be very smart or brave to demolish monuments – they have been demolished without a problem for millennia. To erect a monument, and especially to erect an old monument anew, takes at least a bit of heroic inspiration. Perhaps Jurica Pušenjak was guided by the spirits of the partisans while painting this work. He was certainly encouraged by David Bowie’s lyrics: “We can be heroes, just for one day.””

Feđa Gavrilović


Jurica Pušenjak was born in 1996 in Zagreb. After graduating from the School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb in 2015, he enrolled in the Painting Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He graduated in 2020 in the class of Prof. Zoltan Novak with the ALU Academic Council Award for Best Graduate in the academic year 2019-2020. During his studies, he was awarded several times for his work. Since 2018, he has been a part of a series of group exhibitions, notably the 16th Erste Fragments in Lauba, 5th Biennial of Painting, and 6th Biennial of Painting at the Home of HDLU, „Tartaglia Shelves“ in the Forum Gallery (exhibition and co-authorship), and „They Are Leaving“ in the Glyptotheque of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. As part of the 6th Biennial of Painting, he won the Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Iva Vraneković – artists to artists Award. He is a member of HDLU.



Wednesday – Friday: 11am – 7pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 6pm
Mondays, Tuesdays and holidays closed.

Exhibition will be opened until April 10, 2022.




Wednesday - Friday: 11am - 7pm h
Saturday and Sunday 10am - 6pm h
Mondays, Tuesdays and holidays closed


Wednesday - Friday: 3pm - 8pm h Saturday and Sunday: 10am - 1pm h Mondays, Tuesdays and holidays closed

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