Back Stages

”In the grand tapestry of avant-garde milieu in Paris, Codreano’s tale occupies a delicate, almost invisible thread. Although nestled within the heart of the Parisian artistic scene of the 1920ties, and having crossed paths with renowned figures like Alberto Giacometti, May Ray, or Marcel Duchamp a.o., her narrative remains partly eclipsed by the sands of time. ​​The enigmatic essence of Codreano’s life serves as a reminder of the many untold tales of women artists, whose contributions yet remain to be fully unearthed.”

Aurora Király, Sophie Thun, Irène Codréano

Curator: Mirela Baciak

October 27 – January 13, 2024

26 Popa Soare Street, Bucharest

One particularly intriguing fact of Codreano’s artistic journey is her education under two markedly distinct sculptors—Antoine Bourdelle, a pupil of Rodin, and Constantin Brancusi, the pioneer of modernist sculpture. This dual mentorship encapsulates a narrative of evolving artistic paradigms, as Codreano traversed from the figurative, classical techniques learned from Bourdelle to the modernist approach of Brancusi.

”This intertwinement of contrasting styles in Codreano’s education, under the iconic yet differing Bourdelle and Brancusi, defined a crucible in which her practice melded with tradition and modernity. Ten of the sculptures that Codreano produced during her time in Paris are housed in the collection of MNAR – the National Museum of Art of Romania. Together with Sophie Thun and Aurora Király, we visited the storage of this museum to seek a connection with Codreano through physical interaction with her art. We photographed the ten sculptures, five of which can be seen in the museum’s permanent display of the collection, and five of which are hidden in storage.”

”While researching the Brancusi Archives at Bibliotheque Kandinsky at the Centre Pompidou, the vast documentation of Brancusi’s life presented us with a fragmented image of Codreano, leaving much of her interactions with Brancusi and other contemporary male artists to speculative whispers. The scant traces of her correspondence, some with renowned artists like Fernand Léger, only provide fleeting glimpses into her professional network.”

Sophie Thun, Backstages 2, 2023
Copy of the sculpture ”Eternite” by Irina Codreanu (1937), 2023

What grasped our attention were Codreano’s drawings and sketches of female figures which we accessed through the digital archive at Bibliotheque Kandinsky, encapsulating a sense of longing and a deep understanding of the feminine form and psyche.

Her exploration of the feminine body, coupled with the unique blend of modernist and classical sculpture techniques, symbolizes a resolute venture into a realm that was dominated by male personas.

At Bibliotheque Kandinsky, we could also digitally access the photographs presumably taken by Constantin Brancusi at his studio around the year 1922 of Irène, her sister Lizica, and Eileen Lane. These pictures opened for us a window to a realm where the spirit of the avant-garde fluttered, where the three female figures looked like the Three Graces in whom beauty was deified.

Another ephemeral glimpse of Codreano can be seen in a photograph where Duchamp, Man Ray, and a female figure, presumably Codreano, toast to the zeitgeist of an era. This image (housed in the Museum of Philadelphia), which we could equally only see on a digital screen, perhaps epitomizes the enigmatic narrative of Codreano’s life, a life that traversed the alleys of surrealism, the paths of classicism, and the uncharted realms of personal identity.

In revisiting Codreano's narrative, we may find the emblematic representation of numerous female artists of the era..
In revisiting Codreano's narrative, we may find the emblematic representation of numerous female artists of the era..
Back Stages, details from Sophie Thun photo collage
Back Stage, details from Sophie Thun photo collage

Back Stages is organised by the Romanian Association of Contemporary Art (ARAC) and is a project co-funded by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund, Phileas and the Austrian Cultural Forum. The Back Stages project does not necessarily represent the position of AFCN. AFCN is not responsible for the content of the project or how the results of the project may be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary.

You can download the curatorial text below.