Zen, Zenit, Zenitism

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Zenit (Zenith) was the most important avant-garde magazine published in the former Yugoslavia and one of the most significant publications of the European avant-garde movement of the early 20th century. It began in 1921 published by Ljubomir Micic (1895-1971) monthly in Zagreb and Belgrade until December 1926, when it was banned. A total of 43 issues were published, as well as one poster, ‘Zenitismus’, and one issue of a daily Zenit newspaper on September 23, 1922. ‘Zenitism’ was an avant-garde movement born around the magazine. The Zenitist Manifesto of June 1921 proclaimed humanist and anti-war ideals, and called for the creation of a new and united Europe. Besides Micic, noteworthy contributors to Zenit included Milos Crnjanski, Dusan Matic, Stanislav Vinaver, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Blok, Jaroslav Seifert, Wassily Kandinsky, Vladimir Tatlin, Kazimir Malevich, Tommaso Marinetti, Marc Chagall, Ilya Ehrenburg, and many others.

The material here is a facsimile of the original. In Eye (#73, Autumn 2009) I wrote: “Ranko Horetzky, a designer in Zagreb, Croatia, is the publisher of the boxed collection of Zenit (originally edited by Ljubomir Micić, 1895-1971). It took Horetzky 2000 working hours and more than two years to prepare the edition. Many of the originals were in such bad condition that he had to scan each page separately, to be able to make a complete ‘reconstruction’ – ‘My previous experience with printing posters and graphics in silkscreen helped me a lot,’ he told me.

The hardest part, he said, was finding paper similar to the original stock from the 1920s. ‘From the beginning I had an idea to make the reprints with the highest possible quality; tactile and visual, free of patina and marks of time and /or use.’ The original Zenit issues mostly came from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. Others, from private collections in Belgrade and Ljubljana, were more difficult to procure, which was the main reason for producing this edition: Horetzky wanted to make them all available to scholars and designers who have had no opportunity to touch the orginals.

‘I was much more interested in the visual than in the literal aspect of the content,’ he says, ‘as well as the connections and influences between the domestic and international avant-garde scene. I also wanted to present not only Zenit but other magazines from that period published by people who worked on Zenit.’ In addition to the complete run of Zenit, the set also includes pristine facsimiles of the rare Croatian journals DaDa and Tank

(Thanks to Slavimir Stojanovic, founder and creative directof of Futuro Design in Belgrade.)


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →