There are good reasons to argue that there are numerous and clear clues in Christo’s early works to his later projects, which gained worldwide recognition.
The evidence can be found in the National Gallery’s permanent exhibition. The key to deciphering them lies in “reading” the work In the Marketplace. This small-scale work in oil catches the eye with its expressive coloring. The colors of the three back-facing women’s pinafors are strikingly repeated in the colors of the fabrics Christo used in two of his later projects, The Umbrellas (blue and yellow) and The Surrounded Islands (violet). In fact, the colors are identical. The very “bell” shape of each of the folk costumes unmistakably resembles the shape of an umbrella. The three silhouettes resemble the geometric shape of a truncated pyramid. It could be argued that in their unity the three female figures reproduce the form and intense color impact that we find in the later oil barrel Mastaba project (or chronologically speaking it would be more correct to say the opposite). Horizontally, the wide sleeves of the same women’s white shirts are joined in an almost continuous zigzag line that, both in its white color and silhouette, recalls the Running Fence in the hills of California (another large-scale Christo project). But for the tempted observer, the list of possible parallels could be far longer. For this he is prompted by the many varied in pattern, width, length, and, it seems, also texture cloths. At least eight in number, they are artistically hung on the market stall on a rope awaiting their buyer. It seems to us, without going overboard, we can foresee in these fabrics the artistic ferment and dyes of at least three more of Christo’s projects. These are the “upright” ones in the second row, left to right: Purple Store Front, Wrapped Coast, Australia, and The Gates, New York.
We pause here to recall that it is only in the palette of a small-scale early work by Christo that we are able to find a correlation and compelling cues to seven of his later world-renowned projects, co-authored with Jeanne-Claude. Indeed, too many coincidences for this trail to be false.
The exploration can continue with another early work by Christo, also on display in the National Gallery’s permanent exhibition. This is the work Man’s Head. It seems to us, we feel somehow more intentional the intense “graphite structure”, the contrast and chiaroscuro in this pencil-painted portrait, when the translucent grey-white-black mélange of the fabric used by Christo in the project The Wrapped Trees, Switzerland, is exposed alongside it. Curiously, one of the project’s popular posters features a wrapped tree crown in the foreground, which apparently has the three-dimensional outline of a semi-transparent human head viewed in profile.
Bulgaria is not only the country where Christo Javacheff – Christo was born. The National Academy of Art was not only the first painting school where the great artist began his training as a professional artist. It was more than that. Otherwise, there is no reason why every time in his lifetime the cosmopolitan Christo persisted in stressing the fact that he was born in picturesque Gabrovo, which, unlike other natural or man-made phenomena in the world, is not after all of the size of an object that (if we may express it with the peculiar dose of self-irony of this region) can be “seen from Cosmos”.
This is why, we hope, many will be fascinated to learn that, figuratively speaking, the National Academy of Arts is that “stall” in the work In the Marketplace where the great artist Christo “shopped” the colors of his world-renowned art. And shall we deny that in the world of art it is the colors that create the aesthetic experience and prove the roots? The young Christo painted it himself and bequeathed it to us. Whether consciously or not – we do not know. But we are delighted to be able to present this thesis to you today in the halls of the National Gallery.
So… Let’s take a look at the exhibition. Let’s talk about art. To remember our teachers, those important people who gave us direction. To share them out loud. To take our time. To look up at the sky…
A leaf blown away… God knows where the wind took it…