Born in 1974, Grzeszykowska is an artist of the Raster generation in Poland, associated with one of Poland's most creative institutions. In her art she uses photography, video and digital techniques to explore issues of intimacy, self-awareness and self-erasure.
Multimedia artist, living and working in Warsaw
Both Aneta Grzeszykowska and her husband Jan Smaga both graduated from the Graphic Design Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (Grzeszykowska in 1999, Smaga in 2000). Today they are photographers working both together and independently, creating works that are characterised by an intimate approach to their subject. They often set themselves up as their subject, deepening the intimate aspect of personal photography. At the same time, they are very much engaged in experimentation with digital techniques to manipulate their images and create new contexts, exploring the ways in which reality can be transformed. In 2005 the pair was nominated for the Deutsche Bank Views award for young artists and in 2006 for the prestigious Polityka Award.
In her career as a solo artist, Grzeszykowska focuses on the combined media of film and photography to create metaphorical, symbolic narratives of childhood, womanhood and self-awareness. She often treats her subject as a marionette or a soulless character, which brings to the surface issues related to objectification and anonymity. In her 2005 project Untitled (Photographs), she used photoshop techniques to create photographs of non-existent people. Her 2006 Album project comprises over 200 photographs from Aneta Grzeszykowska's private family archive. Using Photoshop, the artist removed her own figure from each picture, thus creating a peculiar photographic autobiography - from the birth up till now - devoid of the protagonist.
Absence or partial absence continued to be a there in her work, with her 2007 fiction film Black, focusing on the image of her own naked body stuck in an abyss, with certain body parts hidden, while others appear in fragments, only to disappear again. The limbo quality of the image was made using analogue trick photography and animation techniques. In her next film Headache (2009), her naked body goes through a series of changes in a black void. It is in this blackness that the illusion comes to life and the body is given the status of an object, making the act of dismemberment believable. Cleanly chopped, each limb performs a separate task, taking on a life of its own with an almost animalistic mystique, the hand pulling the hair, the head spitting on the hand, the hand slapping the head, the four limbs ganging up on the head until it is exhausted, only to be pulled up to rejoin the rest of the body. It is a the dance pantomime tells us the story of the self-destructive impulses of the body, the story that reaches its conclusion with a deceptive happy end. The head is a passive victim of violence incapable of defense against limbs that are in revolt, an analysis of self-hatred and punishment which can also be understood as a metaphor for the ambiguous relationship between a sovereign and its subjects, for power and submission.
Her 2008 project Doll is a figurative representation of the artist across various stages in her life, dressed up just as she had been dressed in each particular period. These figures give an impression of being eerily distant. The doll figures question the relation of a human being's different incarnations throughout life. Reduced to black and white, minimalistic sequence of flat and three-dimensional images which represent artist's treats the body in an unsentimental, strictly experimental way - yet, nonetheless, the work has an emotional impact on the viewer.
In 2012 Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga invited gallery goers into the private space fo their home - their workshops and their private spaces showing the artists at work and play, experimenting, relaxing and making love. The project builds on their earlier Plan project (2004), which provided a detailed sociological inventory of a contemporary living space. Private Archive is a radical encroachment of that convention. It is a journal of emotion, which records the authors' fantasies, which are sometimes beautiful, other times shameful. They weave these fantasies into the flesh of their bodies, into their art, pulling down the curtains and opening up an otherwise private discussion on making art and making love.
Selfie is Aneta Grzeszykowska's project from 2014. The artist willingly deconstructs her image, disappears or borrows someone else's identity. In Selfie, Grzeszykowska presented a series of photos, which analyse the subject of self-creation – a phenomenon that is the basis of a post-media society. This project combined art, photography and sculpture. The artist created ambiguous works: On a smooth leather background, she presented naturalistic models of fragments of her own body made out of pigskin.
Aneta Grzeszykowska's selfie is very unusual. The self-portrait, made up of body parts, combined sensuality, physicality, eroticism and a unique, dark sense of humour. In addition, it stirred an existential opposition in its viewers. The artist came back in the figure of a doll (sewn from wool), which is an artificial creation but remains emotionally marked. Grzeszykowska skilfully mixes the artificial with the real and blurs the border between the two. In her Selfie exhibition, death imitated life, while life – like the artist’s hands visible in the photographs – was deadened. The visible fragments of the female body are at the same time actual pieces of an animal’s flesh. Through manipulation, they all the more sharply conveyed the irreversibility of aging.
No / Body is Aneta Grzeszykowska's individual exhibition organized in the 11R and Lyles & King galleries. It was a return to the New York art scene after 5 years of absence. The exhibition revolved around the concepts of body, identity and memory. The 11R Gallery showed works from the Selfie series. What was new was the Halina series, in which the author played around with poses observed in the private photographs of Halina and Wojciech Zamecznik, criticising the passivity of the female act. In the gallery, visitors could also see a sculpture entitled Francis 2024 – a vision of the artist's daughter in the future – and a video entitled Ból Głowy (Headache) and Bolimorfia.
At the Lyles & King Gallery visitors could see the Negative Book, for which Grzeszykowska painted her entire body black. The photos she took were then reproduced in negative, which allowed her to preserve her 'natural' look. With these works, the artist wanted to show how easily one could manipulate the basic role of photography, which documents reality by using the photographic process itself. The photos were accompanied by leather 'negatives' depicting Franciszka – the artist's daughter – and a video entitled Negative Process, documenting the work on the series.
Aneta Grzeszykowska continued working with leather in an exhibition entitled Głowa, Skóra, Twarz (Head, Skin, Face) from 2017 created with Zofia Rydet for the Raster Gallery. By means of photos and sculptures, the artists presented skin matter, wrinkles, folds and gestures – images of a female body. Rydet wanted to capture and consolidate the world and the people who leave it with the use of photography. Grzeszykowska attempted a reversed perspective. Using meticulously directed photographic images, she brings non-existent characters to life or animates dead objects. The exhibition also featured unique photographic objects of Zofia Rydet from the Transformations cycle as well as leather heads sewn by Grzeszykowska. The multi-level confrontation of the two artists' art resulted in unexpected convergences. The exhibition at Raster touched on the essence of photography: its power of bringing to life and 'shooting'. In an interview with Adam Mazur for Szum Magazine, Grzeszykowska said:
I usually move within the area of my immediate surroundings. The presence of Franciszka in various photos is something natural – for various reasons, it is, among other things, simply convenient. I use the environment and bodies around me as a kind of contrast or background.
The Mama exhibition from 2019 is Grzeszykowska's first exhibition in which the artist removes herself completely and uses a copy instead. Mama is a series of photographs, which depict her daughter interacting with a silicone sculpture-doll – a hyper-realistic image of the head and body of her mother-artist. All photographs are arranged like single frames of a film, a story that's on a loop – the beginning and end of the cycle is determined by burying the sculpture in the garden. Mama – like all of the artist's works – corresponds with her previous projects. One arises from the other. Grzeszykowska reverses the social roles of mother and daughter, making the daughter have a causative effect on the mother-sculpture, which is visible in the photographs. The mother remains inert and completely dependent on her daughter.
Works from the Mama series were first shown at an exhibition at Lyles & King in the Autumn of 2018, where they were eagerly received by American critics.
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 2019 – MAMA, Raster Gallery, Warsaw
- 2018 – Mama, Lyles & King, New York, USA
- 2017 – Głowa, Skóra, Twarz / Head, Skin, Face (with Zofia Rydet), Raster, Warsaw; Halina & Frankenstein, Państwowa Galeria Sztuki, Sopot; Body of Work, Mindepartementet, Stockholm; Galerie des Polnischen Instituts Düsseldorf
- 2016 – NO/BODY, 11 R, New York, USA; NO/BODY, Lyles & King, New York, USA; Touristin, Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna; Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków
- 2015 – Transition (with Jan Smaga), Studio of Contemporary Creation, Tehran; Selfie, Viborgkunsthal, Viborg
- 2014 – Selfie, Raster Gallery, Warsaw
- 2012 – Fotografiska, Stockholm, SE; Archiwum prywatne, Raster, Warsaw, PL (with Jan Smaga)
- 2011– Lovetime, Harris Lieberman, New York, USA; Headache, Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, US
- 2010 – Fremder Körper (Corpus Alienum), Heidelberger Kunstverein, DE; Birthday, Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Wien, AT
- 2008 – Headache, Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Wien, AT; Fotografia Europea. Reggio Emila 2008, Reggio Emilia, I
- 2007 – Untitled Film Sills, Raster at Art Statements, Art Basel, CH;
- 2006 – New works, Raster, Warsaw, PL
- 2005 – Robert Mann Gallery, New York, USA (with Jan Smaga)
- 2004 – Plan, Fons Welters Gallery, Amsterdam, NL (with Jan Smaga)
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2019 – Prywatne Mitologie: Urodziny Marty / Private Mythologies: Martha's Birthday, Wrocław Contemporary Museum; MASK: In Present-Day Art, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland; Art Collection Telekom: 30 Years Later, Carré d'Art, Nîmes; Boli Mnie, Gdy Się Śmieję / It Hurts When I Laugh, BWA Warsaw; Stan Skupienia / State of Focus, Wrocław Contemporary Museum; What Are We Made Of?, Kunsthalle Darmstadt; AEGIS, Parisian Laundry, Montreal; The Body Electric, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Body Electric, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Mask In Present-Day Art, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland
- 2018 – Tendre La Realite, Transpalette Art Centre, Bourges; Riga Photography Biennial 2018, Riga; Family Values: Polish Photography Now, Calvert 22 Foundation, London; EMOP – European Month of Photography, Bratislavia; Künstlerräume, Weserburg Museum für Moderne Kunst, Bremen; I AM THE MOUTH: Works from Central and Eastern European Artists from the Telekom art collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb; RAY 2018 EXTREME: Self-Staging, Kunstforum der TU Darmstadt, DE; Shine on Me: The Sun and Us, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, DE; Inne Tańce / Other Dances, Centre for Contemporary Art U-Jazdowski, Warsaw; Żyjemy Tylko Dwa Razy / You Only Live Twice, BWA Wrocław; Wszystko Widzę Jako Sztukę / I See Everything as Art, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
- 2017 – Od Sztucznej Rzeczywistości do Selfie: Autoportret w Polskiej Sztuce Współczesnej / From Artificial Reality to a Selfie: Self-Portrait in the Art of Contemporary Polish Artists, BWA Wrocław, Wrocław; 13 Wystawa Kolekcji Małopolskiej Fundacji Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej, Galeria Bielska BWA, Bielsko-Biała; &, Museum of Art, Łódź; Miłosny Performans / Loving Performance, BWA Tarnów, Tarnów; Poza Zasadą Przyjemności: Afektywne Operacje / Beyond The Pleasure Principle: Affective Operations, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Teraźniejszość? / Present?, Kolekcja Fundacji Sztuki Polskiej ING, Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej, Opole; Detsky Sen, Galeria Arsenał Elektrownia, Białystok; Hands On! The Art of Appropriation, Kunsthalle Krems, Krems an der Donau, AT; Sztuka w Sztuce / Art in Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków; Spectre du Surréalisme, Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles; Uporczywe Upodobanie / Persistent Predilection, Labirynt Gallery, Lublin
- 2016 – The Pencil of Culture: 10 years of Acquisitions from the Centre Pompidou, Grand Palais, Paris; Szalona Galeria, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Fiatal Lengyelország – A valóság utóérzései / Young Poland – Afterimages of Reality, Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Pokaz 4, Galeria Bielska BWA, Bielsko-Biała; Kiedy Znów Będę Mały? / When Will I Be Small?, Ośrodek Dokumentacji Sztuki Tadeusza Kantora – Cricoteka, Kraków; Żywe Archiwa / Live Archives, Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii, Pałac Kultury i Nauki, Warsaw; Shape of Time – Future of Nostalgia, Muzeul National de Arta Contemporana, Bucharest; Działania z Rodziną / Activities with Family, Raster, Warsaw; Wyświetlanie Widzenia, Salon Akademii, Warsaw; Contemporary Art in Poland, European Central Bank, Frankfurt
- 2015 – Białe Jest Białe, a Czarne Jest Czarne / Black is Black and White is White, Fundacja 9/11 Art Space, Piekary Gallery, Poznań; [A]symetrie: Sztuka Współczesna w Kontekście Muzeum / [A]symmetries: Contemporary Art in the Context of Museums, Muzeum Lubelskie, Lublin; Izabella Gustowska: Nowy Jork i Dziewczyna / Izabella Gustowska: New York and the Girl, Art Stations Foundation, Poznań; Zuzanna Ginczanka: Tylko Szczęście jest Prawdziwym Życiem / Zuzanna Ginczanka: Only Happiness is Real Life, Muzeum Literatury, Warsaw; Blue Moon: The Feeling of Light, Kunsthalle HGN, Duderstadt; Stan Życia: Polska Sztuka Współczesna w Kontekście Globalnym / State of Life: Contemporary Polish Art in a Global Context, National Art Museum of China, Pekin, CN; Zakochałeś Się w Kimś, Kto Nie Istnieje / You Fell in Love With Someone Who Doesn’t Exist, Narodowy Stary Teatr, Kraków; Situations, Fotomuseum Winterthur, CH; Umenie na hlave, Kunsthalle Bratislava, Bratislava, Slovakia; Kanibalizm? O Zawłaszczeniach w Sztuce / Cannibalism? On Appropriation in Art, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Ars Moriendi / The Art of Dying, BWA Tarnów
- 2014 – Midnight Show II, BWA Dizajn, Wrocław; FRAGILE SENSE OF HOPE: Art Collection Telekom, me Collectors Room, Olbricht Foundation, Berlin; Promieniowanie, Photomonth, Kraków; (Mis)Understanding Photography Works and Manifestos, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; Co Widać: Polska Sztuka Dzisiaj What You Can See: Polish Art Today, Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, Warsaw; Dzień Jest Za Krótki (Kilka Opowieści Autobiograficznych) / The Day is Too Short (A Few Autobiographical Tales), BWA Sokół, Nowy Sącz; Niezgodnie z Instrukcją / Contrary to Instructions, Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej, Opole
- 2013 – Nowa Warszawa: Fotografia i Działania Pokrewne do Zakończenia Wojny Po Dzień Dzisiejszy, Nowy Theatre, Warsaw; Midnight Show, Galeria BWA Dizajn, Wroclaw; Dzień Jest za Krótki / The Day is Too Short, Galeria BWA, Jelenia Gora; Screening Room, Temporary Gallery, Köln; Hair and Skin, Derek Eller Gallery, New York, USA; W Sercu Kraju: Kolekcja Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie / In the Heart of the Country: The Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Parasol w Prosektorium: Montaż jako Mechanizm Artystyczny / A Parasol in the Morgue: Editing as an Artistic Practice, Galeria Salon Akademii, Warsaw; Sendor Tkaniny, Zachęta - National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Performer, Art Stations, Poznań; Reality Check, Gallery44AD, Bath, UK; Twisted Entities: Zeitgenoessische polnische Kunst, Contemporary Polish Art, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, DE
- 2012 – A Disagreeable Object, SculptureCenter, New York; 1:1 – Prace z Kolekcji Fundacji Sztuki Polskiej ING (z Janem Smagą), Państwowa Galeria Sztuki, Sopot; The Not Photography Show, The Arts Club, London, UK; Urwany Film, Galeria BWA Awangarda, Wrocław; Body Language – Works from the Fotomuseum Winterthur Collection (z Janem Smagą), Centre culturel suisse, Paris; La Triennale, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, F; Deja-vu? Die Kunst der Wiederholung von Durer bis YouTube, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe; Res Publica / Res Privata, (with Jan Smaga); Kunstverein at Rosa-Luxemburg-atz, Berlin; Uwikłane w Płeć: Fotografie z Kolekcji Joanny i Krzysztofa Madelskich / Entangled in Gender: Photography from the Collection of Joanna and Krzysztof Madelski, Museum of the City of Łódź,, Łódź
- 2011 – Ostalgia, New Museum, New York, USA; Nie na miejscu, Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, PL; Choreografia ciał / Bodily Choreography, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, PL; Rollenbilder – Rollenspiele, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, AT; I Like The Art World And The Art World Likes Me, EFA Project Space, New York, US; Nothing is Eternally Important, Centre of Contemporary Art, Toruń, PL; Windows Upon Oceans, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, GR
- 2010 – The Last Film, Raster, Warsaw, PL; Fast forward 2. The power of motion, Media Art Sammlung Goetz, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, DE; Feel Home, CC Strombeek, Brussels, BE
- 2009 – Beg Borrow and Steal, The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, USA; FUSO. International Video Art Annual of Lisbon, PT; Windows upon Oceans. Berlin Wall 20 years after. Plan, La Chambre, Strasbourg, FR (with Jan Smaga); She Devil on Tour, The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest, RO; Double Face, Vertikale Galerie in der Verbund–Zentrale, Vienna, AT; She Devil 3, Studio Stefania Miscetti, Roma, IT
- 2008 – Transfotografia, Gdansk/Gdynia/Sopot, PL; Betonowe dziedzictwo, Instytut Polski w Rzymie, IT (with Jan Smaga); Dreamberries – zwischen Traum und Trauma, Videonacht im Westfälischen Kunstverein, D; Act so that I can speak to you, Galerie Kamm, Berlin, D; Update. Review of New Polish Photography, Miesiac Fotografii, Cracow, PL; Reality Check, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, D; Martian Museum of Terrestial Art, Barbican Gallery, London, UK; Double Face, Vertikale Galerie in der Verbund–Zentrale, Vienna, A
- 2007 – Centre d'Art Santa Monica, Barcelona, ESP; Reality Effect, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, PL; Anachronism, Argos Centre for Art & Media, Brussels, B; Raster Haircut, Rental, New York, US
- 2006 – 4th Berlin Biennale, Berlin, D; Pre–Emptive, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, CH; Willa Warszawa, Warsaw, PL; Part of the process 2, Galeria Zero, Milan, IT; Is it better to be a good artist or a good person?, Raster at Rental Gallery, Los Angeles, USA (with Jan Smaga); I–Image, The Central European House of Photography, Bratislava, SK (with Jan Smaga)
- 2005 – Mapping Space, Miami Art Museum, Miami, USA (with Jan Smaga); Views 2005. Deutsche Bank Cultural Foundation Award, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, PL (with Jan Smaga); Mallorca Open, Centro Cultural Andratx, Andratx, ESP (with Jan Smaga); Falsche Erwartungen, Kunsthalle Darmstadt, D (with Jan Smaga); Pieces of Identity, Museum of Photograpy, Thessaloniki, G; National Museum, Szczecin, PL (with Jan Smaga)
- 2004 – Paravent, factory – Kunsthalle Krems, A (with Jan Smaga); Pieces of Identity, Espace Apollonia, Strasbourg, F (with Jan Smaga); From Above, Georg Kargl Galerie, Vienna, A (with Jan Smaga); Pluzzle, galerie griedervonputtkamer, Berlin, D (with Jan Smaga)
- 2002 – Blow up, Palace of Culture, Warsaw, PL (with Jan Smaga)
Updated by HSz, June 2020.