The artist created countless watercolours, monotypes, gouaches, and drawings during the German occupation of Poland, and this exhibition marks the first time when many of those works are on public display. Furthermore, the artist also created many unique and unpublished abstract compositions during his socialist realist phase, which also mark their first ever museum appearance.
The National Museum in Wrocław has just opened an exhibition which displays the works of one of the most outstanding Polish artists of the avant-garde era. The works shown there were largely salvaged from the artist’s former workshop and have been recently acquired by a private collector.
Alfred Lenica considered himself to be a surrealist painter, although his contemporaries often placed him in the abstract camp. In the words of Beata Gawrońska-Oramus, the editor of the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition:
The essence of his painting lies beyond the purely visual, and his choice of titles is crucial to fully understanding his works. The paintings are a reflection of emotional states, states that occupy the space formed between the painting and the viewer
Alfred Lenica’s paintings have not been exhibited in public since 2002. Back then, a ‘Festival of the Lenicas’ was organised in Poznań and showcased works by Alfred Lenica as well as his childdren, Jan and Danuta.
“The exhibition in Wrocław contains around 200 works, presented in a chronological order, and also divided by the medium used, be it paper or canvas”
Barbara Ilkosz, the curator of the exhibition, conversation with Culture.pl
The exhibition in Wrocław will also introduce the public to further artistic themes whichLenica experimented with. It displays:
“(…) his earlier experiments with tachisme, his informalist inspirations, his collages, and, above all, his abstract and metaphorical paintings decisively inspired by surrealism. It reveals many works which have not been shown to the public before, it brings us closer to the ‘mysteries’ of the artist’s workshop. It also introduces us to his many experiments with techniques such as collage, decalcomania, monotyping, dripping paint, and his own ways of working with glue”
Dr hab. Piotr Oszczanowski, curator of the National Museum in Wrocław
The exhibition will focus especially on the large composite oil paintings which Lenica painted from the late 1950s until the early 1970s. Lenica’s personal interprations of informalism very prominently influenced those works, which include “Ślady religii”(1956) (Signs of Religion), “Złudzenie rzeczywistości” (1957) (Illusions of reality), “Z dna wojny” (1962) (From the bottom of war) and “Debilne przyspieszanie sukcesu” (1971) (The idiotic acceleration of success).
Writing in the exhibition catalogue, Mariusz Hermansdorfer further describes Lenica’s style:
His paintings are akin to surrealist visions of underwater worlds, faraway galaxies, and rocky rubble. They also have elements of overrefined and highly decorated art nouveau (…) Lenica combined his ability to create beautiful compositions with his interest of literary themes, poetic associations, and imaginary situations. He had the ability to look at knots of seaweed, unrealistic flowers, explosions of light and shadows, and see something more than merely refined shapes and tastefully selected colour combinations.
The exhibition at the National Museum in Wrocław also has a few surprises in store.Watercolours, monotype works, gouaches and drawings which were all created in Kraków during the German occupation and which were hidden away in the artist’s drawers for many years will make their first public appearance. Similarly, previously unseen works in which the artist freely experimented with socialist realism will also be on display.
“They paint a surprising new picture of the artist and transform the way we study and understand him. They do not show an artist who left the avant-garde experiment to pursue socialist realism. Instead, they demonstrate that Lenica wanted to genuinely infuse his art with a socialist spirit, even if this was done with far less fervour than the rest of his abstract art” Beata Gawrońska-Oramus, writing for Culture.pl
During this time period, Lenica also created works on paper such as “Szersze Apetyty” (1952) (Wider appetites), “Źródła” (1952-1957) (Origins), and “Smugi i Plamy” (Streaks and Spots). During this period, he extensively experimented with different types of paint, lacquer, ink, encaustic painting, and used many different tools to apply, spread, and remove paint.
Those works, which Lenica never intended to go on public display, were preceded by 54 paintings which were first exhibited by the artist in 1958 (many of which are also currently on display in Wrocław). Those early works vastly increased Lenica’s artistic prominence, turning him into one of the icons of tachisme in Poland. A catalogue, edited by Beata Gawrońska-Oramus, was compiled to accompany the exhibition. It contains texts written by prominent art critics and historians, including Mariusz Hermansdorf, Bożena Kowalska, Andrzej Nakov, Piotr Oszczanowski and Marek Świca. All of them exhaustively analyse many aspects of Lenica’s art. The catalogue also contains archival photographs and personal recollections supplied by Lenica’s relatives, including Tadeusz Konwicki, a prominent Polish writer.
3 September-19 October 2014
National Museum in Wrocław
Sources: National Museum in Wrocław, Doxa Capital, edited by Agnieszka Sural, 7/08/2014