Born in 1980 in Białystok. Painter, video and installation artist, author of photographs, curator and publisher. Works and lives in Warsaw.
Karol Radziszewski studied at the Painting Department of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. He graduated in 2004 after working under professor Jarosław Modzelewski. In 2006, the artist won the 3rd edition of the Samsung Art Master competition for emerging artists. Radziszewski is a co-founder of the flying gallery Szu Szu (together with Ivo Nikić and Piotr Kopik) and the editor-in-chief and publisher of DIK Fagazine. In January 2010 he received Polityka’s Passport Award in the Visual Arts category.
In the early years of his practice, Radziszewski used to work in painting, applying a variety of styles. He would often reach out to pop culture and transpose the motifs borrowed from it to his canvases. The visual sources of inspiration would also be easily apparent in his works – one could find traces of random photographs, religious images (I Trust You/Ufam tobie series, 2004), comics, or animated films.
The artist’s most typical visual choice in the early period of his practice would be covering the white surfaces of paintings with a multiplied black linear pattern – this horror vacui motif would very often be revisited by the artist in his murals. He created his largest mural in the Marymont station of the Warsaw underground in 2006. In this work, he combined the themes of the turbulent history of the city with its everyday contemporary life – thus juxtaposing skaters with the insurgents. Both the formal aspects of this piece and the interest in creating projects in urban spaces had their origins in early actions by Radziszewski: a colouring book for adults Do it With Me (Zrób to ze mną, Café Baumgart in 2003) Where are You (Gdzie jesteś, 2004) – a project carried out with prisoners, or Colouring (Kolorowanie, Lille, 2004), in which Radziszewski worked with children.
The monograph documenting the decade's activities of the szu szu flying gallery acts as a peculiar...
Radziszewski also introduced a similar style in his diploma project House – Block – Street (Dom - Blok – Ulica, 2005). The project was conceived as a triptych, consisting of three actions carried out in three different spaces: private – the artist’s parents’ house, semi-private – in a block of flats, and public – in a street. In his parents’ house, he covered some of the walls with the floral pattern of a curtain whose image was preserved in childhood photographs. The third part was a partly illegal action, during which Radziszewski hung photocopied images of Jesus Christ in the streets of Warsaw. The happening was documented on film.
The permeation of the private and public space and the tensions arising between them had become a significant element of many projects by Radziszewski. In 2005, he realized two exhibitions, each of which tackled the subject matter in a different way. The first of them was Office (Biuro), which took place at the Information Library of the Warsaw’s Zachęta National Gallery of Art. The artist installed an office of a Białystok company at which his parents worked inside the Gallery’s room. Radziszewski also created painted copies of wall calendars and promotional materials, highlighting the role these objects play in turning the workspace into a more friendly, homely place.
In the same year, Radziszewski opened the exhibition Fags (Pedały) in an apartment in Warsaw’s district of Żoliborz. The show comprised a number of works that the artist had created since 2002, tackling the subject of homosexuality.
Together, they become a kind of declaration – Radziszewski said of the set.
The first part of the exhibition was a literal coming-out of the artist – a long picture with the text ‘I am a fag’. The oldest work in that exhibition was a photographic diptych God Hates Fags. God Loves Everyone, Even Niggers (Bóg nienawidzi pedałów. Bóg kocha wszystkich, nawet czarnuchów), produced at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, at Grzegorz Kowalski’s studio. The titular slogans were written on the artist’s forehead and cheek. Most of the works in the show were small format paintings from the series Man – Object of Desire (Mężczyzna - przedmiot pożądania), documenting the process of eroticization of the masculine body in popular culture. Among the re-painted images, one could find an image of a nude Brad Pitt captured by a paparazzo, Arno Breker’s sculpture, or a still with the cartoon character Johnny Bravo flexing his muscles. The artist placed a quote from the same animation on a pink wall: ‘Man, it must be great being you watching me!’. The choice of a private apartment as the location of the exhibition was not accidental – on one hand, the setting was pointing to the enclosed gay environment, and on the other – to the role of grassroots movements in the efforts towards social emancipation.
The exhibition in Żoliborz was one of the elements of the emerging trend in Polish gay culture, whose most famous manifestation was the book Lubiewo by Michał Witkowski. Radziszewski was the author of Polaroid photographs illustrating the special edition of the book. The provocative DIK Fagazine, a magazine edited and published by the artist, could also be classified as part of that movement.
The gay and erotic themes have also been recurring in the artist’s later works. At the beginning of 2006, Radziszewski made the video-diary Plus/Minus, documenting the difficult moments of waiting for HIV test results. At the beginning of the filming process, the author wasn’t yet aware of the test’s results. The soundtrack was formed out of telephone conversations of the artist confessing doubts regarding the test and a newly started relationship. Radziszewski received the First Prize in the Samsung Art Master competition for this video.
The gay and family issues present in the artist’s oeuvre came together on the occasion of the 2007 exhibition I Always Wanted (Zawsze chciałem) at the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw. The show exposed a certain tension between these two problems, two parallel worlds, for which it was almost impossible to meet. Inside a space resembling the interior of a private apartment, Radziszewski presented his project House (Dom), a part of his diploma work, complemented with some new videos. One of them featured Radziszewski and his grandmother singing the song Praise the Flowery Meadows (Chwalcie łąki umajone) – she was sat in a private home, while the artist performed in a professional recording studio.
In another video, the woman crochets a pink balaclava for her grandson (Fag Fighters: Prologue, 2007), probably without suspecting what purpose the hat was going to serve. In the dark exhibition rooms a collection of videos was shown, among them films presenting activities of a fictional group of gay anarchists called Fag Fighters (wearing pink balaclavas).
When nominated for the Views 2007 Award, Radziszewski created a reading room devoted to his artistic output, also containing documentation of the production process of the project itself, to which he once again invited his family.
In the summer of 2009, Radziszewski opened a boutique at the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw. It was called Marios DIK and was an effect of a cooperation between DIK Fagazine, published by Radziszewski and the designer studio MARIOS (represented by Leszek Chmielewski and Marios Loizou). The clothes produced under this newly founded label were covered with black line patterns relating to gay culture – similar to those appearing on Radziszewski’s paintings.
In 2006, the artist organized the action Taste It – A Competition for the Most Erotic Way of Eating a Banana, a clear allusion to the 1972 piece by Natalia LL, Consumer Art. The main prize was a painting of a bunch of bananas
34 years after Natalia LL's stay in New York on a Kościuszko Foundation grant, Radziszewski decided to follow her foosteps. In 2011 he made a trip to America in order to meet the artists and gallerists who Natalia LL came across back in 1977. What is different when a Polish artist makes this kind of trip today? This is the question that Radziszewski addressed in his film America Is Not Ready For This, which includes, conversations with Vito Acconci, Carolee Schneemann, Marina Abramović, etc. Mikołaj Gliński, wrote on Culture.pl:
The film, made up of fragments of interviews, is a specific kind of hommage to Natalia LL, but one that is ambiguous and deprived of pompous character. His task was not so much to recontruct the events from the artists trip in 1977, but take a closer look at the rules of the game that position artists in the art world - now and then.
For Karol Radziszewski, an artist whose work focuses on gender roles and queer themes, the...
Radziszewski would repeatedly reference 1970s art in his own works. In 2007, on the occasion of the exhibition The Structure of an Artistic Fact at the BWA Gallery in Zielona Góra, Radziszewski recreated works by Wojciech Fangor, Edward Krasiński, Natalia LL, and Ryszard Winiarski, asking about their validity and reception in contemporary times.
In 2009, Zachęta Gallery invited the artist to expose the less known works from its collection. Thus, in the exhibition To Pee in a Bun (Siusiu w torcik), Radziszewski fulfilled the double role of a curator and artist – by incorporating others’ works into his own meta-piece, he asked questions about the integrity of a single work of art and the process of constructing meaning. He chose Edward Krasiński as the patron of the show, exposing his Installation (Instalacja) work from 1997, and responding to his seminal blue scotch piece with a pink stripe.
Since 2009, Radziszewski has been working on a documentary film Kisieland, a record of his encounter with Ryszard Kisiel, the creator of Filo - the first gay zine from Central Europe. The film revolves around previously unrevealed archive of photographs produced in reaction to the 'Hyacynth' military action, for which the Polish Peoples' Republic Security Service was gathering information about homosexuals in Poland.
In 2015 Karol Radziszewski founded the Queer Archives Institute, an organization devoted to collecting and presenting queer art, with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe. The inaugurating exhibition for the QAI took place in 2016 in São Paulo in Brazil.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, October 2007, update - January 2010. Translated by Anna Micińska, February 2014. Updated August 2016, AM.