Ilija Bosilj Bašičević “Tales From Parallel Universes”

Cavin-Morris Gallery

poster for Ilija Bosilj Bašičević “Tales From Parallel Universes”

This event has ended.

Ilija Bosilj Bašičević was born in Šid, in what is now Serbia in 1895, and died in 1972 in the same town. His parents were peasants and he spent most of his life as a farmer, having been forced to drop out of school after four years. He resisted conscription during World Wars I and II as a protest against totalitarianism. When he began to paint, he assumed the name Bosilj. Although there were attempts to link him with some of the generic painters of the “naïve” movement in Yugoslavia, his work was marginal if at all relevant to that limited development. The work was certainly not naïve, nor was the man. We have never understood why he, like Anselme Boix-Vives, was never appreciated by Art Brut theorists and collectors as Art Brut. It is time to update historical misperceptions.

Like many non-western artists he used his own traditional folklore as a jumping off point and visionary bedrock for his highly personal and idiosyncratic imagery. His work’s themes touched upon what Jane Kallir describes as:

Biblical stories, scenes from the Apocalypse, episodes from myth and history, depictions of local animals, birds, and the Dzigura (Sid’s main street), and most idiosyncratically, images of winged people and an idyllic parallel universe called Ilijada. These subject groupings are not discreet categories but rather are interrelated. The flying people are on their ways to Ilijada. The Dzigura exists both on earth and in Ilijada. Overall, Ilijada is a paradise that balances and opposes the horrors of the Apocalypse. Given the evil that Ilija had witnessed in his own life, it is understandable that he was obsessed with such dichotomies. His paintings are full of double-headed and two-faced creatures, which represent dualisms, not just of good and evil, but of truth and lies, kindness and aggression, the conscious and the unconscious, the outer and the inner.

He used a golden background for a special series of paintings he called the Iliad Cycle, based not upon Homer but his own journey through life. A selection of these paintings will be included in this exhibition.

Great Art Brut makers create and are spiritually invested in building worlds and universes. Bosilj certainly did this, disguising the complexity in a sometimes minimalist visual style that interprets the fluidity of reality in an allegorical visual vocabulary. There are no simple answers; mankind is two-faced. Morality is never finite; it is always neutral.

Ilija Bosilj Bašičević’s paintings are in the permanent collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; MNU Ilijanum, Sid, Serbia; Collection de l’art Brut, Lausanne; Museum of Everything, London; Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Museum of Naive Art, Zagreb, the Rockefeller Collection and the Carlo Ponti collection.

His work has been widely collected in Europe where he is recognized as a master, but he is less known in the US. Gallery St. Etienne introduced his paintings earlier and we are proud to continue to work with the estate of the artist. Bosilj deserves to be known as one of the great discoveries in our field. We hope you make time to experience first-hand this important artist’s work. We look forward to welcoming you to our new gallery where we join our neighbors Bruce Silverstein, and Ricco/Maresca Gallery.



from June 03, 2021 to August 31, 2021



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