Jozef Bajus was one of the first artists I met after I moved to Buffalo in 2014. At that time he had a solo exhibition, Lendfield, on view at Hallwalls that consisted mostly of large-scale wall sculptures utlizing either recycled materials or commonly found plastics, pipes or rubber.
I remember being impressed by the scale, and elegant use of materials that both complimented the professional atmosphere of the gallery. The work was allowed to breathe in coexistence with the viewer.
Since then, I’ve witnessed his work in other galleries, including his recent show at Indigo Art, where the depth of material used is again broad and not limited. I Walk the Line, inspired by the infamous Johnny Cash ballad, calls to attention the need to explore and the time to be creative. The solo exhibition has an array of works that span across the walls, floors and ceilings, that reflect gestural movements in time and space.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jozef and Indigo Art gallery owner, Elisabeth Samuels, on a recent Saturday afternoon, after the show opened. As we engaged in conversation about art, life, and Buffalo, I began to learn more about the artist, his roots and how Buffalo became his home, 14 years ago.
“Beauty is everywhere, not just in nature, we just need to open our eyes and listen with our hearts.” –Jozef Bajus
Jozef grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia (now known as Slovakia), where his father was a tailor and his mother worked in a textile mill. He was inspired by his parents to draw and paint. At the age of 16, he entered a textile art high school, where his rigorous studies prepared him to enter the workforce as a textile designer at 18. After one year, he felt prepared to enter the scholastic realm again, and was accepted into the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts and Design (AFAD) in Bratislava (now the capital of Slovakia), after his second attempt. Jozef explained the entrance examination process, which was by no means the same as taking the ACT or SAT. During one day, applicants would have to go through exercises that exhibited their skills in drawing, painting and design, in addition to showing a portfolio. Out of 100 applicants the school would only accept 5.
After 6 years of practically free education, Jozef earned his bachelor and master’s degree in fine arts, and re-entered the workforce as a textile designer at a local mill. In 1989, when the Velvet Revolution took place, the students took control over the school (AFAD) and came knocking at Jozef’s door asking him to teach and develop the textile program. Once things started to settle in 1990, Jozef spent the next 11 years, building the department from the ground up, starting with nothing, except for an empty room.
In 2001, through an exchange program, Jozef was invited to teach for three semesters at a university near Pittsburgh, where he and his family got a taste of the American life and didn’t want to return back to their homeland. With his temporary position coming to an end, he attended the College Art Association conference, and had multiple interviews for teaching positions, but it was Buffalo State that offered him a position to not only teach, but to develop the textile and design program, a position that he was quite familiar with. Currently, Jozef is in the process of developing a student exchange program between Buffalo State and AFAD Bratislava, Slovakia.
Jozef has been a visiting teaching artist around the globe and his artwork has followed suite. Buffalo is lucky to have landed such a dedicated artist and educator. I Walk the Line, is on view through May 15 at Indigio Art (47 Allen Street, Buffalo), hours Wednesday – Friday 12-5pm and Saturday 12-3pm.
1. Installation view of his current exhibition: I Walk the Line at Indigio Art 2. Photo of artist and gallerist, Elisabeth Samuels in the gallery 3. Where the River Runs, 2016, piece on view at Indigio Art 4. Ancient Whisperings, 2016, piece on view at Indigio Art 5. Artist took part of the Natural Indigo Workshop at Jinze Research Center – demo of rice paste print, China 2015. 6. Teaching a fibers class at Buffalo State, 2016