László Péri

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Born 1899 in Budapest into a large proletarian Jewish family and became politicised at an early age. Finished an apprenticeship as a bricklayer and became a student at the workshops for proletariat fine arts in 1919. He was in contact with Kassák and the Activists. In 1917 he began his career as an actor at the MA theater school, studying with János Mácsza. As part of a theatre company he went to Prague which is where he heard about the fall of the Republic of Councils. Studied architecture in 1919-20 in Budapest and Berlin. 1920 lived shortly in Paris, in the house of a socialist baker before being forced to leave the country due to his political activities.

Moved to Vienna, then on to Berlin in 1921, where he created his first abstract geometric reliefs. February 1922 show with Moholy-Nagy at Der Sturm gallery, Berlin. In 1923 his portfolio containing twelve linocuts was published by Der Sturm Verlag. His contributions to constructivism at the time were to challenge the surface of the wall by producing irregularly shaped wall reliefs and to open up new planes; namely the discovery of concrete as a potential sculptural medium (eg. Reclining Woman, 1920; Standing Woman, 1924), colouring it if necessary, and the appreciation of the hard contour as a visual device, as seen in his collages and linoprints, which could be used to create a visual medium hovering between the relief and architecture; whereas Moholy-Nagy's 'Glasarchitektur' achieved this using paint and canvas Péri used less conventional media. At the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung in May 1923 he showed his three-piece 7x17-metre composition, which while it may also have been executed in paint on wood, had pretensions to be executed in concrete. 1923 the November Group's exhibition. Signed "Declaration" [Nyilatkozat] with Moholy-Nagy, Kemeny and Kallai, published in Egyseg in February 1923 [1]. 1923 joined the German Communist Party (KPD). 1924 constructivist design for a Lenin tribune for the German art exhibition in Moscow; marked the end of his investigations into the non-objective.

1924 began to work for the Berlin municipal architectural office from 1924 to 1928, probably motivated by a vision to put his productivist values into action, but frustrated he quit the job in 1928. 1928 signed the manifesto and statutes of the German Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists [Assoziation Revolutionärer Bildener Künstler Deutschlands; ARBKD; ASSO] which like other new and militant Communist art organisations called for a reinvigoration of the idea of "proletarian culture" and suitably positive images of working-class life and culture. Member of Die Abstrakten and Rote Gruppe. 1929 returned to representational painting and sculpture.

Immigrated to England in 1933 after his wife was arrested in possession of Communist propaganda. In England he lived first in Ladbroke Grove, then in Hampstead; 1938 moved to a studio in Camden Town (worked there until 1966). Joined the recently founded English section of the Artists International (later to be known as 'Artists International Association'), an association composed largely of commercial artists and designers whose declared intention was to mobilise "the international unity of artists against Imperialist War on the Soviet Union, Fascism and Colonial oppression." September/October 1934 contributed "several forceful works in coloured concrete" to the AIA exhibition 'The Social Scene'. Contact with John Heartfield. July 1938 solo exhibition 'London Life in Concrete' in an empty building at 36 Soho Square. November 1948 solo show 'Peri's People' at the AIA Gallery. Late 1940s a series of commissions for the London County Council. 1951 produced a sculptural group Sunbathers for the Festival of Britain. Commissions from Stuart Mason, Director of Education for Leicestershire (Two Children Calling A Dog, Scraptoft, c. 1956; Atom Boy, Birstall, 1960). Died in 1967 in London.

Articles
  • Krisztina Passuth, "Péri László konstruktivista művészete", Művészettörténeti Értesítő 91/3-4, Budapest, 1991. (Hungarian)
  • Krisztina Passuth, "Péri László az európai avantgárd mozgalomban". in A másik Péri László, kiállítási katalógus, Home Galéria, 1999. (Hungarian)
  • László Beke, "Sík és tér Péri László művészetében", in A másik Péri László, kiállítási katalógus, Home Galéria, 1999. (Hungarian)
  • Krisztina Passuth, Avantgarde kapcsolatok Prágától Bukarestig 1907-1930, Balassi Kiadó, 1998, pp 225-234. (Hungarian)
  • Matthew Palmer, "Peter Peri (1898-1967) - An Artist of Our Time?", Eger Journal of English Studies X (2010), pp 113-135.
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