Art group from Wrocław, active in the years 1983-1995. Its work has been widely considered as one of the most significant phenomena in Polish art from the end of the 1980s and the beginning of 1990s, involving exhibitions, installations, publications, happenings and actions.
Art group from Wrocław, active in the years 1983-1995. Its work has been widely considered as one of the most significant phenomena in Polish art from the end of the 1980s and the beginning of 1990s, involving exhibitions, installations, publications, happenings and actions...
Cover of the fifth issue of "Luxus" magazine, 1985, courtesy of Paweł Jarodzki
The LUXUS group was formed at the famous "314 studio" at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław in 1983. While the members of LUXUS changed, the group itself remained democratic and heterogeneous. The artists tended to see themselves as a group, yet it was always one that operated on an entirely novel basis. They ironically claimed that the group operated with a "socially active" credo, publishing Luxus magazine, organising exhibitions and engaging in discussions and debates in order to justify its existence. Its most active members throughout the years included Paweł Jarodzki (leader and creator of the group's name), Ewa Ciepielewska and Bożena Grzyb-Jarodzka, as well as Jerzy Kosałka, Marek Czechowski, Artur Gołacki, Małgorzata Plata, Stanisław Sielicki, Jacek Jankowski, Szymon Lubiński, Andrzej Jarodzki, **os*Krzysztof Kubiak*os_kubiak_krzysztof**, and Krzysztof Kłosowicz (Kaman).
The artists associated with LUXUS rose out of Wrocław's countercultural milieu, including such music groups as Miki Mausoleum, Klaus Mitffoch and Kormorany and artists. Major (Waldemar Frydrych), who later created the Orange Alternative, played an important role in the late 1970s. During the strike at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1981 Paweł Jarodzki and his friends from the same studio, Ewa Ciepcielewska, Bożena Grzyb-Jarodzka, Andrzej Jarodzki and Artur Gołacki, started to publish a fanzine: the psychoactive Luxus magazine. The first issue, published in ten copies, comprised the works of artists who made them mostly with stencils; the topics were only loosely connected. More authors cooperated on the subsequent issues which were also bigger and more thematically linked. The name referred the group's members' eagerness to stand out from the dull and grey aspects of martial law. The contrast between the grey, Communist reality of imported American Lego sets and Barbie dolls at the exclusive Pewex shop was what inspired the group's artists. At that time true luxury was an unattainable object of desire. It transformed itself into a common fantasy without a chance of becoming reality in any other way than through creating a distance from the gloomy everyday life, the ideology and the history. "LUXUS" artists altered this unattractive world, they ran away from "typical Polish" issues, and instead turned to carnivalesque expression that rejected a rigidity of form - even going a step further in parodying the excessive forms of Pop Art in the West.
Initially, the artists created their magazine by hand, using stencils, prints and drawings. The first few editions appeared in batches of no more than twenty copies. Six editions had been published by 1986. The topics revolved around demythologising politics, sex, rock music and pop-art motifs. "Luxus" magazine was a reaction to the emotional and aesthetic needs of the art public's young generation. According to Paweł Jarodzki, "it was supposed to fill the gap and give an aesthetic counter-offer". For the most part the magazine used images, catchphrases, and mental shortcuts which made it comparable to comic book aesthetics. Its pages were filled with beautiful women, luxury cars, beaches with palm trees, while Superman soared above the roofs of Wrocław. On a flyer promoting "Luxus" experimental magazine's exhibition at Pokaz Gallery in Warsaw in 1985 Marcin Giżycki wrote:
"Only here can you read about Frank Zappa's luxurious party and learn the unknown facts about the life of Mickey Mouse (unpublished materials from Walt Disney's archives which, among others, prove beyond doubt that Mickey, and not Jackie Coogan, was Chaplin's kid). Only here can you find sensational features from China in addition to sexual advice ('We take our readers' rude comments into consideration!'), porn films and underground comic strips. LUXUS is embarrassed by nothing, LUXUS is interested in everything! LUXUS gives you top quality product in full, permanent colour!"
The LUXUS group was formed while working on the magazine, with Paweł Jarodzki acting as the group's leader. His own art was for many years closely linked to its activities. The formation of the group formalised the social relations among the artists - friends with a similar artistic sensitivity and attitude toward reality. In 1984 the group began taking part in exhibitions - which they called "demonstrations" - as well as organising various actions. LUXUS's distinctive aesthetics had a big influence on the development of Wrocław's art scene.
From the start, the members of LUXUS based their efforts on creating popular art that was easy to make and would be widely available. At the same time it was a way of dissociating themselves from the then ruling "academism" of conceptual art. One of the group's slogans cried out "Attraction Instead of Abstraction". What's more, the young artists from LUXUS admired the Fluxus movement and its progressive ideas - especially the one that claimed that art is a way of life. LUXUS was connected to current events and the immediate world around its members. The group was known for creating artistic "situations", with everyday life in the big city as their primary source of inspiration. The group's projects were irreverent reactions to the so-called true reality: of politics, of society and of customs. Under the banner of LUXUS the artists extensively drew on Western models of both popular culture and pop art. They favoured artistic freedom and pastiche, they referred to the Dadaist collage tradition and made liberal use of the possibilities given by stencil techniques. They recreated the icons of popular culture and mass imagination in their very own way, interfering in their original meanings and presenting them in new contexts. They showed the phenomenon of pop art, which in Poland of that time was a vibrant, desired and unattainable myth. They made their works from "rubbish", left-over packaging from luxury products sold at Pewex shops. LUXUS members were perfectly aware that a colourful chewing-gum or a cigarette box, a beer can - rubbish in Western culture - rose to the level of fetish in the East. In the poor Polish reality of the 1980s it was a clear symbol of the dream of a paradise of wealth and consumption.
"True luxury shows" were prepared under the heading "Long Live Luxury". For each of their presentations the artists attempted to transform the exhibition space entirely. The shows were accompanied by films, live music, lectures, poetry readings and other presentations - such as a juggling show by Jerzy Kosałka. The Popular Teenage Party which included an art exhibition, film screenings, lectures and concert by De-Musk band, was organised together with the band at the Wrocław Light Centre in 1985. The links between the visual artists from LUXUS and the music scene were clearly identifiable. Andrzej Gołacki played bass guitar in the Miki Mausoleum and De-Musk, while in his works Paweł Jarodzki used the images of artists such as Frank Zappa, Chuck Berry and David Byrne. Artists from LUXUS counted on the creativity of the artistic public. During an exhibition at BWA in Białystok in 1985 they put paint, cardboard and stencils in one of the gallery rooms, encouraging the audience to make a "handmade" picture. Pop music filled the room, a "film" was made without a camera - with pictures created by painting film with coloured markers - was screened on a projector. LUXUS exhibitions usually meant a really good time and a full-on sensory experience.
The key elements of LUXUS' exhibitions were often made up of quite complicated spatial installations, designed collectively by the members of the group. LUXUS organised so-called meetings in which the members discussed future projects and eventually the authorship of ideas developed in this fashion became blurred. In addition to collective projects presented at exhibitions, the artists showed their solo works, which were their own subjective depictions of the group's ideas. The one-day action LUXUS Paints the Panorama of the World, organised at the Leśnica castle in Wrocław in 1986, was the first project carried out jointly from beginning to end. The artists painted a panorama of the world using black paint on white screens arranged in a circle. The public stood in the middle, and Kaman, a fellow musician sang and played in the crowd. A subsequent LUXUS show titled You, too, can become King Kong took place that same year at Kosmonautów housing estate's community centre in Wrocław. The artists created a model of the city made of cardboard and waste material found on a dump. The model showed a fragment of Wrocław seen through their eyes: gloomy housing estates from the 1970s and 1980s, their large size and ugliness transfixing. The project of the city turned out to be so appealing that the members of LUXUS continued to develop it in the following years. The last version of The City was presented at a group exhibition titled "The Epitaph and Seven Spaces" at the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw in 1991.
The next joint project of the LUXUS group grew exponentially larger from the previous one. Show of Confectionery Products with Extended Expiration Dates. The artists exhibited it for the first time in 1991 for the opening of Miejska Gallery in Wrocław. The exhibition included Futurist-Mannerist layer cakes made of plaster and plastic, as well as other confectionery products in quantities which made the tables "groan under the weight of the goodies". A series of layer cakes for all occasions: White Cake with Neanderthal Men, Cake with Scuba Divers, and Military Cake, was shown among other things at the exhibition. The cakes were all layered, revolved on their own axes, made different sounds, they shined and they glittered. From a distance they looked real, even though they resembled the fantasy of a mad confectioner. And the message was clear: you can look, you can admire, you can crave a bite - but it's all an illusion. In 1992 LUXUS brought their cakes to Kraków for a three-day celebration of the Chinese New Year at Zderzak Gallery. Miki Mauzoleum and Maciej Maleńczuk played and sang among others inside the Grey House.
Twenty years later LUXUS dusted the cakes off and re-exhibited the show at Wrocław's Entropia gallery in December 2010 - proving their durability once again.
LUXUS group's most significant exhibition took place in 1993 at the PGS National Gallery of Art in Sopot. Titled "Love Is Not Everything", the presentation was made on a grand scale and with a considerable budget. It was set up in six rooms: The Altar Room, The Voluntary Catharsis Room, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, The Right-The Left-Dialogue, The Memories Room, and The Solo Cabin. Twenty "altars" in Altar Room, the most important of the rooms, were built by the artists from pictures, objects, video films and other art forms. The altars had their own authors and were dedicated to different values; they were also guarded by huge cats. The artists borrowed their images from a Chinese toy on which they stencilled on twenty paintings in 2x2m format, creating a parody of Warhol's colourful multiplications. LUXUS group's 1994 Krakow exhibition "Make Love or War" was a further development of that show. The number of cats and altars rose to thirty-three. The edifice of the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery was covered in camouflage netting and the whole area was fenced with barbed wire. A Native American wigwam painted in flowers appeared outside the gallery, and a paraphrase of the slogan from the previous decade, "Make Love or War" was placed on the military netting. During the opening the public was offered army-style pea soup, a commando unit showed its skills, while invited drum players played their instruments, and the atmosphere of a crazy party prevailed.
The activities of the LUXUS group officially ended with their "Rose-Storming" exhibition at BWA in Wrocław in 1995.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, July 2010. Translated by Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer, October 2010.
Selected solo and group exhibitions:
- 1984 - "Prawdziwy LUXUS" / "True LUXUS, Poniedziałek Gallery, Współczesny Theatre, Wrocław;
- 1985 - "Wieża Bab" / "Tower of Hags, Biała Gallery, Lublin;
- 1985 - "P.I.M. (Popularna Impreza Młodzieżowa)" / "P.T.P. (Popular Teenage Party), Light Centre, Wrocław University of Technology;
- 1985 - "Legendarny LUXUS po raz pierwszy w Warszawie" / "The Legendary LUXUS First Time in Warsaw, Pokaz Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1985 - "Pokaz prawdziwego LUXUSU" / "True LUXUS Show, BWA, Białystok;
- 1985 - "Ekspresja lat 80." / "1980s Expression, BWA, Sopot;
- 1986 - "LUXUS maluje panoramę świata" / "LUXUS Paints the Panorama of the World, Zamek, Wrocław;
- 1987 - Róbrege Music Festival, stage design project, Warsaw;
- 1987 - "Co słychać?" / "What's up?, Norblin Factories, Warsaw;
- 1987 - 2nd New Art Biennial, Zielona Góra;
- 1988 - "Młody Wrocław" / "Young Wrocław, BWA, Katowice;
- 1989 - "Miasto LUXUS" / "LUXUS City, Na Ostrowie Gallery, Wrocław;
- 1989 - "Polak, Niemiec, Rosjanin" / "The Pole, the German, the Russian, Norblin Factories, Warsaw;
- 1990 - "Kunst, Zensure und Xerox" / "Art, Censorship and Xerox, Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf and Kampnagelfabrik, Hamburg;
- 1991 - "Pokaz wyrobów cukierniczych o przedłużonym okresie trwałości" / " Show of Confectionery Products with Extended Expiry Dates, Miejska Gallery, Wrocław;
- 1991 - "Epitafium i siedem przestrzeni" / "The Epitaph and Seven Spaces, Zachęta Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1991 - "Książki i strony" / "Books and Pages, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw;
- 1992 - "Prawdziwy LUXUS w Krakowie" / "True LUXUS in Krakow, Zderzak Gallery, Krakow;
- 1993 - "Miłość to nie wszystko" / "Love Is Not Everything, BWA, Sopot;
- 1994 - "Make Love or War, BWA, Krakow;
- 1995 - "Róża Mózgów" / "Rose-Storming, BWA, Wrocław.
- 2010 - Pokaz wyrobów cukierniczych o przedłużonym okresie trwałości - redegustacja" / " Show of Confectionery Products with Extended Expiry Dates - Reissue, Galeria Entropia, Wrocław