The National Gallery (Multimedia Centre “Mala Stanica”) represents the XXL Group, created in 1994 in Sofia. After decades of mutual ignorance (or partial knowledge) of the current processes in the art of the two countries, this exhibition looks like another step towards a lasting cooperation in the field of culture.
In 1994, the group’s founders were Svilen Stefanov, Genadi Gatev, Huben Cherkelov, Ivan Curanov, Kosyo Minchev, Rasim, Georgi Tushev, Petko Durmana and Slavi Slavov. The first manifesto “A kick with a leg on the back of inertia” was written and published at the beginning of 1995 in the magazine “Kultura”, and later appeared on the pages of “Literaturen vesnik” with supplements. The name XXL is also associated with the gallery that existed between 1996 and 2003, situated in the square “Macedonia” in Sofia. The names of some of the most popular exhibitions of the XXL Group are “New Bulgarian Visual Art” (1996), “Kosyo, Huben, Tushev” (1997), “Dimensions of Violence” (1998), “Gangstart” (1998) , “The Bulgarian Landscape as a Metaphor” (2001) and “New Radical Practices” (1997 to 2001). The XXL Gallery was closed in 2003 by Sofia’s regional governor after an exhibition in the gallery titled “AntiSax (New Political Art)”.
In the general picture of Bulgarian art, this group is one of the first examples of independent artistic activity outside the existing institutional structures. As early as when they were students, they entered the public space radically and unceremonially. Today, their work can be viewed with a more objective view, clarified from the filter of emotions and the extravagant spirit of the 90s. The exhibition at the National Gallery in Skopje is not a reconstruction of the XXL phenomenon – that would have been a major reconstruction of dozens of works, some of which no longer exist. And they were just a portion of the overall radical behavior. This exhibition is more of a reminiscence and an attempt to later understand the change that this group has brought to contemporary Bulgarian art.
This exhibition mainly highlights the group’s current work, which includes authors who have been involved in its activities over the years – Rosen Toshev, Dimitar Jaranov, Georgi Ruzhev, Boris Serginov, Krasimir Dobrev, David D’Agostino. Many authors have collaborated over the years with the group, and dozens have opened solo exhibitions in the space of the XXL Gallery.
In the 1990s, the group was being mostly recognized for working in the field of installation, performance, video and actions in urban space. For example, such an action was the scandalous painting of buildings in the entire city center with the graphite “Huben, Kosyo, Tushev”, which was considered to be on the verge of hooliganism. At the same time, the group invariably developed the contemporary possibilities of painting, as witnessed not only by the conceptual curatorial exhibition “New Bulgarian Painting” (1996), but also by the fact that almost the entire group worked and still works in what is considered a classic medium. Whereas, although today they express themselves by all possible means, but without prior agreement, the emphasis still always falls on painting. Multilayered painting – from conceptually “serious” to post-abstract or expressively irresponsible and parodic. Everywhere the vision is complicated, broken through an intellectually insidious semantic layer, peering behind the materials, techniques and gestures. XXL play out the maps of historically pictorial languages – with full awareness of their ironic new use.
As part of the Annual Program of the Gallery, the project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of North Macedonia. In the realization of the exhibition, we received kind support from the State Institute of Culture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Cultural Information Center of R. Bulgaria in Skopje.