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Iancu, Marcel

(1895–1984), plastic artist, architect, and art theorist. Marcel Iancu (Janco) was born in Bucharest. Even as a youth he contributed to the Simbolul review, and had occasion to meet Tristan Tzara and Ion Vinea. He also studied painting and drawing with Iosif Iser. A pioneer of the avant-garde movement, Iancu’s style evolved from expressionism during the interwar period to an abstract mode during his later years in Israel.

In 1915, Iancu studied architecture at the Polytechnical Institute in Zurich, where he participated in the group known as Cabaret Voltaire. He met Hans Arp and Hugo Ball there, and renewed his acquaintance with Tzara. In 1916, he and Tzara founded Dada, the avant-garde movement that aimed to eliminate social conventions and the bourgeois concept of art. DADA. Recueil littéraire et artistique (1st issue, Zurich, 1917), edited by Tzara and with illustratations by Iancu, included contributions from a number of plastic artists and poets. Iancu also joined the group Das Neue Leben, with Arp and Alberto Giacometti. Between 1920 and 1922, he lived in Paris, where he left the Dada movement, accusing it of abandoning its principles to follow the trends of surrealism.

Iancu returned to Romania in 1922 and held his first show in 1923. That same year he founded the avant-garde group Contimporanul, which he established with Ion Vinea and Jacques Costin. As one of its organizers, Iancu coordinated Contimporanul’s exhibitions between 1924 and 1930; the first of these (which he put together with Max Hermann Maxy) enjoyed significant international participation.

Before World War II, Iancu worked as an architect. He and his brother Iuliu designed many of the first modern buildings (both public and private) in Bucharest, the Prahova Valley, and the Black Sea coast. With a stress on both interior design and urban development, Iancu developed a style influenced by Bauhaus as well as by the functionalist conceptions promoted by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier.

As a result of anti-Jewish laws, Iancu left Romania in 1941 and settled in Palestine. In 1942, his first personal show was organized by the Art Museum of Tel Aviv. A second Tel Aviv exhibit, in 1948, was followed by one in New York in 1950. He also designed scenery and costumes for the Habimah Theater of Tel Aviv. In Israel, Iancu was part of the art movement Ofakim Ḥadashim (New Horizons). In 1953, he established an artists’ colony in ‘En Hod and also taught at the Teachers Seminary in Oranim.

Suggested Reading

Marcel Mendelsohn, Marcel Janco (Tel Aviv, 1962); Amelia Pavel, Pictori evrei din România (Bucharest, 1996); Uniunea Arhitecților din România, Bucureşti anii 1920–1940: Între avangardă şi modernism (Bucharest, 1994); Uniunea Arhitecților din România, Centenar Marcel Iancu: 1895–1995 (Bucharest, 1996).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea