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Adam Marczyński

A painter, graphic artist, draftsman, book illustrator, and stage designer, born in 1908, died in 1985 in Kraków.

Marczyński was one of the most original artists of post-war Krakow. Despite working very closely with the group that surrounded Tadeusz Kantor, he experimented in ways that ultimately lead to his art becoming clearly differentiated from that of his friends.

Between 1929 and 1936 he studied at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts under Władysław Jarocki and Ignacy Pienkowski. During his studies he embarked on his first artistic voyages to France and Spain. He began to exhibit actively in 1933. Marczynski had his first solo exhibition approximately three years later. Before the war he also developed a relationship with the Kraków Group, a tightly knit ensemble formed in 1931 whose members included Sasza Blonder, Maria Jarema, Leopold Lewicki, Stanisław Osostowicz, Jonasz Stern, and Henryk Wiciński. After the war Marczynski joined with Jarema and Stern in reactivating the Krakow Group (II). For several decades (1945-79) he taught at his alma mater, where he was also an assistant to Eugeniusz Eibisch. Marczyński was a painter, graphic artist, draftsman, book illustrator, and scenery designer. He also created monumental paintings, as exemplified in his church interiors (Tarnow Cathedral, 1958).

Before World War II and immediately afterwards, he employed the aesthetics of Cubism and a typically Polish variation on Post Impressionism (referred to as Colorism). He painted still lifes, landscapes, interiors, and portraits. Midway through the 1950s, in line with the dominant tendency among Krakow artists, his paintings tended to be Surrealistic and above all acquired a poetic tone akin to that evident in the works of Paul Klee and Joan Miró (see among others his monotype prints titled Z zielnika / From the Herbarium). Marczynski achieved a greater degree of originality in lyrical compositions characterized by subtle geometric forms reminiscent of flora and fauna that coexist with purely abstract lines. In spite of possessing a palpable intellectual dimension, these works remain spontaneous. In the second half of the 1950s Marczynski began to underline structure in his works more clearly, structure which, in his case, often consisted of an arrangement of abstract patches that were simultaneously signs (the painting Zima / Winter, 1955; monotype prints titled Na wsi / In the Country, Wiosna / Spring, 1956). The macro-cosmos of generalized visual forms became the micro-cosmos of greatest interest to the artist. Color, rendered sensitively in delicate, harmonized arrangements, became his primary source of lyricism.

Around 1960 the artist definitively abandoned paintings/illusions in favor of paintings/objects. It was at this time that Marczyński ventured into collages - half-spatial works made of broken, partly charred slivers of wood, sheets of veneer, pieces of cardboard, rusty sheet metal or tar paper - referring in this way to "matter" painting (Konkrety / Concrete Items). These works accent both formal geometric arrangements on a plane and - much like those of Jean Dubuffet - the actual physical qualities of structure. The sculpture-like Kompozycja elementów zmiennych / Composition of Variable Elements, created during the 1st Biennale of Spatial Forms in Elblag (1965), was a clear harbinger of the path the artist was to take.

At the beginning of the 1970s Marczynski created a series of rhythmic compositions in small cases. These objects could be closed or open using operable doors attached along the vertical or horizontal axes of these regular rectangular objects. Assemblages of this kind became his primary creative focus from this point on (see the series Dekompozycje / Decompositions, Układy otwarte / Open Arrangements). He varied the shapes of these cases (making them square or rectangular in cross section), used various systems for their assembly and for attaching doors, and painted them in a variety of colors. With time he would limit this variation and eliminate colors to concentrate on producing minimalist compositions, usually in a single dominant hue. For example, in Refleksy zmienne / Changing Reflections the doors are painted with a silver reflective paint; light directed at the work creates the illusion of an undulating surface. Each of these works could be read variously depending on its surroundings. The most interesting of these confrontations occurred during the 1970 edition of the Koszalin Plein-Air in Osieki (1970). During the event the artist installed his cases in the natural environs (placing them in trees), thus juxtaposing two orders: the natural and that deriving from civilization. The governing principles of Marczynski's art allow for viewer intervention. His structures constitute "open works": by maneuvering their elements, viewers may create highly original, unrepeatable compositions of their own, the law of probability their only limitation. The kinetic aspects of movement and change inscribed in reliefs are, in the works of this artist, more a reflection of his perception of the ephemeral nature of the world and a consequence of his search for harmony than a consequence of strict realization of rigorous Op Art principles. It should be noted, however, that the artist's experimentation occurred in parallel with the expansion of this phenomenon throughout the world in general, an expansion that was also visible and noted in Poland.

Marczyński represented Poland at a number of international art festivals. In 1956 he was a participant of the Venice Art Biennale three years later presented his work at both the Sao Paulo Biennale and the Documenta in Kassel. His oeuvre is summed up in a catalogue published on the occasion of a retrospective organized posthumously at Krakow's Gallery of the Office of Artistic Exhibitions (Galeria BWA -1985).

Author: Małgorzata Kitowska-Łysiak, Art History Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, Faculty of Art Theory and the History of Artistic Doctrines, December 2001's picture
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