Independent artist and painter. Born 1920 in Pleszew, died 1980 in Warsaw.
Marian Bogusz spent part of World War II as a prisoner of the concentration camp at Mauthausen. This experience did not, however, directly influence his later life. Perhaps this enabled him after 1945 to become one of the most important figures in the Polish arts, both as an independent artist and as someone who spawned many important community and national projects which, although varied, were primarily avant-garde in nature. Bogusz received his training as a painter between 1946 and 1948 at Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under Jan Cybis and Jan Sokołowski among others. In 1947 he began to work actively with the Warsaw-based Young Artists and Scientists Club, which was an unusually lively source of intellectual and artistic initiatives whose impact was felt throughout the country. During the Socialist Realist period he withdrew into the background, as did many artists, limiting himself to designing scenery and exhibitions.
Midway through the 1950s, prior to the imminent "thaw" that would prompt a series of changes in cultural policy and above all include an official departure from the "criteria of Socialist Realism", Bogusz began working closely with Zbigniew Dłubak and Kajetan Sosnowski. Together they founded Group 55, an act which was not only a rebellion against Socialist Realism domination of various areas of culture but also a manifestation of opposition towards the ossified formula of Polish Post-Impressionism (Colorism), still promoted in the academies as canon but possessing no relation to reality and perceived as excessively aesthetic and banal (in the eyes of Group 55 artists with their revolutionary attitudes). Group 55 also directed its initial manifestations against the Expressionistic poetics that dominated the "Against War, Against Fascism" - Polish National Exhibition of Young Visual Arts, shown in 1955 at Warsaw's Arsenal. Bogusz and the artists linked to him were not given any autonomy within the general exhibition, where they had hoped to exhibit as a group in an effort to underline their individuality. They were in the end able to realize this last objective by simultaneously organizing a counter-exhibition. In contrast to the aforementioned formulas (Socialist Realism, Colorism, Expressionism), the program of Group 55 highlighted its members' interest in modern art in its contemporary manifestations, art drawing on a modern understanding of metaphor in which the approximate forms combined with allusion and a certain compositional rigor was at times brutally accented with bright colors. Bogusz played a fundamental role in the group and was a co-founder of the Galeria Krzywe Koło (Crooked Wheel Gallery), one of the first in post-war Poland to showcase contemporary art. The Crooked Wheel began operating in 1956 within the Old Town Cultural Center located in the Warsaw's historic district. The gallery did not limit itself to organizing exhibitions. Bogusz's idea was to create a basis for a permanent museum collection of the works of Polish contemporary artists, an idea that was successful to an extent (the collection was eventually transferred to the National Museum in Warsaw).
Marian Bogusz also contributed to the organization of the Modern Art Exhibitions (Krakow 1948-49, Warsaw 1957 and 1959), which were milestones in the history of Polish art of the second half of the 20th century (particularly the first edition). His participation in these projects and openness to new artistic proposals also facilitated the pioneering of models for experimental artistic meetings like the Koszalin Plein-Air in Osieki (1963), the Biennale of Spatial Forms in Elbląg (1965), and the 1970 Wrocław Symposium. Bogusz was also the initiator of the Lublin Visual Arts Meetings (1976-78). For years these "experimental events" determined the shape of Polish art, leaving behind lasting traces - works whose value critics may question, but many of which survive to this day. Examples include the metal structures created with the support of the Zamech Machine Works in Elblag during the 1st Biennale of Spatial Forms (1965), which are interestingly incorporated into that city's urban landscape, and the structures built during the Lublin Visual Arts Meetings, integrated into housing districts of the Lublin Housing Cooperative.
Bogusz began to produce his own art around the end of the 1940s. During his first period he created mainly lyrical paintings in which mood was generated by specific arrangements of abstract forms deprived of any rigor, often treated simply as planes. This is evident in Kompozycja ze słońcem / Composition with the Sun (1948), exemplary of the artist's poetic sensitivity. Somewhat later and particularly in the initial years of Group 55's existence (and in accordance with the group's program), Bogusz attempted to combine the clarity of his expressive language (visible deformation of figures, architecture, objects, and flatly laid colors) with the need to incorporate metaphorical meaning into his canvases (Symfonia liturgiczna Honeggera / Honegger's Liturgical Symphony, 1955). Both of these tendencies disappeared when the artist developed an interest in "matter painting" in the 1960s. He not only abandoned metaphorical meaning but also excluded all manner of allusion, attempting instead to underline the autonomous values of his works, especially the texture of his paintings. Thus he demonstrated his sensitivity for color and an ability to extract numerous hues and nuances from single planes of color more strongly than in any of his earlier works. This can be seen clearly in compositions Płótno i plamy / Canvas and Planes (1960) and Ciecia / Cuts (1976). Some of these compositions possess a relief structure characteristic of this poetic, a structure which generated additional effects caused by light passing over the uneven surface of the painting (Epitafium dla stolarza Bolesława / Epitaph for the Carpenter Boleslaus, 1966).
Bogusz's subsequent activities drew significantly on the avant-garde concepts defined by Władysław Strzemiński. These constituted the foundation for the painter's program of national artistic projects and inspired his own creative explorations. Although active as an organizer, Bogusz never gave up on his own creative ambitions. During the meetings and open-air workshops which he organized, he found time to produce art himself (as evidenced in his work produced during the 1st Biennale of Spatial Forms in Elblag, 1965). Always in search of inspirations and sources for his own paintings, in the last years of his life Bogusz drew on the tradition of geometric abstraction (Hommage dla Kazimierza Malewicza / Hommage to Casimir Malevich, 1978). Highly original, his output remains largely unknown and relatively undervalued, contrasting in the latter sense with Bogusz's energetic and successful efforts in promoting new art. This is probably because his oeuvre was varied, inconsistent, and he often adapted it to current tendencies. As a result, it is difficult to identify distinguishing characteristics. The artist seemed to devote more energy to his multi-directional organizational activities than to independent artistic experimentation. This fact alone has helped to render unquestionable Bogusz's position as one of the most distinct figures on the artistic map of post-war Poland. Extensive information about both of the artist's areas of activity can be found in a catalogue that accompanied a retrospective exhibition that showcased the achievements of the Crooked Wheel Gallery (National Museum, Warsaw, 1990).
Author: Małgorzata Kitowska-Lysiak, Art History Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, Faculty of Art Theory and the History of Artistic Doctrines, December 2001.