Sari Dienes: ‘S’ as in Sugar, ‘A’ as in Art
Edizioni Conz Raum
Sep 13–Nov 08, 2019
Exhibition view “'S' as in Sugar, 'A' as in Art Installation view at Edizioni Conz Raum”, Photo by Giorgia Palmisano
Exhibition view “'S' as in Sugar, 'A' as in Art Installation view at Edizioni Conz Raum”, Photo by Giorgia Palmisano

[...] Dick Higgins, many years back, was the very first person to talk to me about Sari Dienes and to tell me that I ought to publish her work. Ben Patterson was kind enough to take me to visit her, twice, which gave me the chance the see her work and to start on my way a first understanding of the myriad gestures that coalesce in her highly complex world. Rip Hayman, finally, was to help me to get to know her better, pointing the way to a firmer grasp of her works, and guiding my relationship with Sari, whom it isn't always easy to deal with. His patience and devotion have made this miracle possible [...]

- Francesco Conz

[...] Sari Dienes has often been compared to artists like Louse Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Joseph Cornell, and those who have written about her work have often expressed surprise, or even dismay, that she has never been the object of a similar level of acclaim: surprise because it seems unfair, dismay since the Neo-Dada precursors of Pop Art, as well as many others, readily admit their indebtedness to her work. The explanation most often advanced is that Sari Dienes has simply done too much, and worked in too many fields, thus denying her work an easy coherence or a simple recognizability. She has no trade-mark. She is an excellent draughtsman who has also worked with junk and found objects, assemblage and collage, wood, ceramics, glass and clay. She has made colorful paintings on fields full of snow and taken photos of the way they melt; she has likewise made open air sculptures of earth and rocks and indoor mobiles made of human and animal bones. She has scorched canvases with fire and lit them from behind with colored lights; she has made sculptures that emanate sounds [...]

John Cage speaks of the “religious spirit” as essential to the life and work of Sari Dienes, and he points to its presence in the attitude of constant experimentation that runs through her work as a whole.

- Henry Martin from “My name is Sari Dienes: “'S' as in Sugar, 'A' as in Art” 1991

[...] My love for Bartok came quite naturally. Therefore I was overjoyed when Sari Dienes told me she knew Bartok rather well in New York in the war years. It certainly deepened the appreciation of Sari’s art work tremendously. Sari Dienes existed next to John Cage, as Bartok existed next to Schoenberg..., sometimes a little overshadowed, yet always asserting her independence. You compare the violin concert of Bartok and that of Schoenberg. One is intellectual and bony, the other is full of sorrow and meat – that is vitality. Asd tubercolosis was an asset for Chopin, vitality is an asset for Sari. This contagious happiness invaded our art and bodies [...]

- Nam June Paik

Sari Dienes (Debrecen, Hungary, 1898 - New York, US, 1992).
Sari Dienes’ impressive career spanned over 60 years. She worked with a wide range of mediums such as ceramic, textile design, sound installation, drawing, printing, set and costume for theatre, performance and painting. Pioneer of the assemblage movement, Dienes’ compositions essentially consist of natural and manmade detritus and found objects. She actively used her direct urban surrounding as a tool, noticeably with her large scale “Sidewalk Rubbing” between 1953 and 1955. Dienes was also a close collaborator of Fluxus artists such as Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, taking part in several of their performances and festivals. Close to Abstract Expressionism from the beginning, she remained related to personalities such as John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Introduced by their common friend Ben Patterson, Conz and Dienes met at her studio in 1987. Marked by Dienes’ personality and achievements, Conz proposed to exhibit her works in Europe, which had them collaborate until Dienes’ death.