Her tinted polyester resin casts of her lips and breasts transformed into quotidian objects, her spongy polyurethane forms often embedded with casts of bellies, and her construction of resin sculptures that incorporate found photographs remain as remarkably biting, visionary, and original today as when they were first made
Alina Szapocznikow, "Le Monde", 1971, polyester, "Le Monde" magazine, drawings, 50,5cm x 34,9 cm. Photo: Charles De Borggraef
The expansive solo exhibition devoted to the visceral works of the revered Polish sculptor first debuted at in the Wiels Centre in Brussels in September 2011, later featuring at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. This autumn it comes to the Museum of Modern Art in New York
This broad retrospective is one of the first major solo presentations of the artist's work outside of Poland, concentrating on her most experimental period between 1955-1972 - up until the final moments of her life. It was this experimentation which led to a redefinition of sculpture, setting it between Surrealism, Nouveau Réalisme and Pop Art. Her tinted polyester resin casts of her lips and breasts transformed into quotidian objects, her spongy polyurethane forms often embedded with casts of bellies, and her construction of resin sculptures that incorporate found photographs remain as remarkably biting, visionary, and original today as when they were first made.
There are roughly 100 pieces on view, the exhibition puts Szapocznikow's sculpture centre stage alongside all other media she worked in, including photography and drawing. Although she was already quite early in her career well known in Poland where her work has been highly influential since, her oeuvre remains ripe for art historical re-examination. In an interview with Artinfo, Joanna Mytkowska of the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art, who co-curated the show, calls attention to Szapocznikow's unusual approach to sculpture, which leans towards an acceptance of "failed sculpture", of distorted, mutilated forms and "towards entropy, even ephemerality". These deeply corporeal works were a salute to the female form and woman's place in the world, in society. She finds ways of making profound works based on jarring subject matter, such as the genocide of World War II in Souvenirs and her personal battle with cancer in the Tumors series.
A review in Le Monde took note of the vivid elements of destruction and degradation of the flesh, in these works and their reference to the horrors of wartime Europe:
From1967, she took photographs of faces and naked bodies, she drowned them in resin, obtaining mummified, twisted forms. It is impossible not to report on this obsession with physical destruction and her experiences in the camps which she refused to talk about.
Alina Szapocznikow was one of the most original woman sculptors in contemporary art. Inspired by the personal experience of her long battle with a fatal illness, she created a visual language of her own to reflect the changes going on in the human body, introducing new materials to the sculptor's repertoire with which she courageously and effectively experimented to create moving works with an uncommon power of expression. During the German occupation, she spent the years 1940-1942 with her mother in the Pabianice ghetto (her father died in 1938). From there she was transferred to the Łódź ghetto, and then - via Auschwitz - to the camps of Bergen-Belsen and Teresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. After the war she decided to study sculpture and soon made her mark on the art world with her striking forms, which evolved steadily into the characteristic style that has intrigued the world three decades after her passing, a style that combines sculpture hints of Surrealism, Nouveau Réalisme and early Pop art. with
Her artistic credo - effectively her will - written less than a year before her death, reads:
My artistic gesture is aimed at the human body, this 'entirely erogenous area' with its undefined and ephemeral feelings, celebrating its impermanence in the recesses of our body and in the traces of the steps we take on this earth. Through casts of the human body, I attempt to preserve in translucent polystyrene the ephemeral moments of life, its paradoxes and its absurdity.
The exhibition at the MoMA, which takes place between the 7th of October 2012 and runs through the 28th of January 2013, is curated by Elena Filipovic and Joanna Mytkowska, organised at the MoMA by Connie Butler, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings in cooperation with the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. The exhibition has previously beeen shown at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (September 2011 - January 2012) and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (February - April 2012).
The MoMA presentation is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation. Additional support is provided by Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Modern Women’s Fund, The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, The David Berg Foundation, and the Polish Cultural Institute New York.
The exhibition is accompanied by a symposium and lecture series throughout the duration of the show, and by an extensive publication devoted to the sculptor's life and works, available for purchase at: www.momastore.org.
Also see Agata Jakubowska's book on the artist and the works featured in the show: Awkward Objects on amazon.com and the collection of collection of letters between the artist and her husband: Lovely, Human, True, Heartfelt: The Letters of Alina Szapocznikow and Ryszard Stanisławski, 1948–1971 at amazon.com
For more information on the exhibition and related events, see: www.moma.org.
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart
Source: Press release