#photography & visual arts
On 15th October 2020 in Slovenia's capital, a unique show will open on the final years of Andrzej Wróblewski’s work. The first exhibition of its kind outside of Poland, it will be held at Moderna Galerija, one of the most prestigious modern art museums in Europe.
The exhibition at Moderna Galerija consists of over 120 works of Andrzej Wróblewski created between 1955 and 1957. A large number of these paintings have never been exhibited or haven’t been displayed for over 60 years. The exhibition is the largest undertaking in the eight-year activity of the Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation, which carries out the mission of promoting the artist’s work in Poland and around the world. The show is organised in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
‘Andrzej Wróblewski: Waiting Room’ at Moderna Galerija
Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana is one of the oldest and most prestigious museums in Central Europe. For several decades, it has initiated daring exhibition and academic projects devoted to the heritage of post-war Yugoslavia and Central and Eastern Europe. The exhibition Andrzej Wróblewski: Waiting Room will be on show in Slovenia’s capital for three months – until 10th January 2021. The project is the fruit of a collaboration with the Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation.
Over 120 works of Andrzej Wróblewski from the final period of his work (1955-1957) will be displayed across five rooms with a total area of over 800m2. They will include well-known paintings such as:
- Waiting Room I, The Queue Continues
- Waiting Room II, (Chairing I)
- Tombstone, (Tombstone of a Womaniser)
[Many paintings were posthumously given alternative titles by the artist's mother, some even in parentheses. In 2012, The Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation decided that these two titles should always be shown together, and that they need to be presented separated by commas, hence these titles' unusual appearance - ed.]
There will also be numerous gouaches, monotypes and a dozen or so large-format works created on brown packaging paper. Among them, a great majority are works that have never been exhibited before or were last shown to a wider audience in 1958.
This is the first exhibition of Wróblewski’s work outside of Poland in which the curatorial team – Magdalena Ziółkowska and Wojciech Grzybała from the Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation and Marko Jenko from Moderna Galerija – has focussed on the final years of the artist’s work. This period symbolically begins on 10th May 1954 with the birth of Andrzej’s firstborn son, known to his family as ‘Kitek’, and ends with Wróblewski’s death on 23rd March 1957 in the Tatra Mountains.
The metaphorical through line of the exhibition rests upon two symbolic figures – people pinned to chairs in anticipation, reflection and timelessness; degraded, anonymous and undifferentiated. This ‘waiting-room mentality’, as the German playwright Heiner Müller once called it, is characteristic of the experience of the communist period in Central and Eastern Europe. Magdalena Ziółkowska explains:
The exhibition can be treated as an attempt to answer the question why, after more than 70 years, it’s worth returning to the artist’s 1956 trip to Yugoslavia. For some, this will be an analysis of government documents, a careful look at the collected facts, or reading daily entries in the artist’s diary. For others, this will be a journey full of questions and hypotheses, a journey shrouded in mystery.
And although everyday life in Yugoslavia during Tito’s rule differed greatly from the economic conditions and the socio-artistic situation of the Polish People’s Republic and other countries behind the Iron Curtain, such differing perspectives allow one to take on more universal matters related to moral existence, bodily regimes, as well as work with feelings and mourning.
Avoiding Intermediary States. Andrzej Wróblewski (1927 - 1957) – Image Gallery
The exhibition concentrates on five themes. The first is the reconstruction of the trip to Yugoslavia between 30th October and 21st November 1956 taken by Wróblewski and art critic Barbara Majewska.
Selected works by Andrzej Wróblewski - Image Gallery
It is apparent that this journey was undertaken at a time when Wróblewski was suffering a complex personal crisis that forced him to reconsider his own artistic stance. In this sense, as Barbara Majewska has explained, the trip ‘was not only a trip in the atmosphere of the Polish October [a so-called ‘thaw’ in the communist regime’s restrictions], but also a trip south’. In other words this was primarily a sensual journey to experience ‘other hill forms, other smells, flora, other kinds of light, other buildings and other people.’
Branislav Dimitrijević in ‘Folklore, Modernity and Death’, from ‘Avoiding Intermediary States', Warsaw 2014
The curators present numerous archival materials, photographs, documents and artworks, in which one can find direct inspirations from Yugoslavian contemporary art, figures such as Lazar Vujaklija, but also landscape, folklore, local architecture and stećci – carved stone tombstones found in this part of Europe.
Many of his works painted after this visit in late 1956 and early 1957 display a striking anticipation – or rather a frightening intuition – of death, in their focus on the motifs of tombstones and funerals, just as other works of that period converged on the motifs of the petrifaction or reification of the human body.
The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to the day-to day of Wróblewski’s home life and motherhood. Numerous portraits of Wróblewski’s wife, female nudes, interiors of the artist’s Kraków apartment and studio are engaged in a dialogue with the famous painting Mothers, Anti-Fascists [please see earlier note about these multiple titles - ed.], submitted by the artist to the Exhibition of Young Art under the slogan ‘Against War, against Fascism’, organised as part of the 5th World Festival of Youth and Students in the summer of 1955.
Another question taken up at the exhibition is the theme of waiting, the mesmerising inventory of waiting rooms, queues and chair arrangements – works exhibited during Wróblewski’s lifetime at the 3rd Exhibition of the Po Prostu salon at the Jewish Theatre in August 1956, as well as various depictions of women and portraits of a young model.
A separate space has been devoted to works organised around the theme of boys – a very important topic in the artist’s late work, with his famous canvas Boy on Yellow Background, Model, (A Boy) [again, the unusual form of these titles is explained above - ed.] as the centrepiece.
The last part of the exhibition consists of 33 from the 35 so-far recovered monotypes (Wróblewski produced a total of 81). They were most likely created in the last weeks of the artist’s life. Because they reference all of the most important themes raised by Wróblewski throughout his lifetime, this series is considered to be his ‘artistic last will and testament’.
Andrzej Wróblewski. Constantly Looking Ahead - Image Gallery
The exhibition was preceded by a three-year conservation project led by the Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation and Professor Marzenna Ciechańska from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. As part of the effort, the team carried out conservation on 70 privately owned paper works, which constitute the majority of pieces on show in Ljubljana.
In addition to paintings, gouaches, monotypes, pencil and ink drawings by Wróblewski, the exhibition will feature work by artists from former Yugoslavia, including some of whom Wróblewski met personally, that build a common context and establish direct local dialogue with Wróblewski.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication-catalogue under the same title, published in English, with six critical essays, a presentation of archival materials, photographs from Wróblewski and Majewska’s trip and reproductions of 200 paintings by the artist. The catalogue is co-published and distributed by the prestigious German publisher Hatje Cantz.
The catalogue publishing partner and co-organiser of the exhibition is the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation
20th century polish art
post war painting
The Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation is an institution founded in 2012 by Magdalena Ziółkowska, Wojciech Grzybała and Andrzej Wróblewski’s heirs led by Marta Wróblewska, the artist’s daughter. The institution is the culmination of the latter’s 20 years of support for the organisations and curators of numerous exhibitions and publications devoted to her father. Magdalena Ziółkowska and Wojciech Grzybała have been promoting the work of Wróblewski in Poland and around the world since 2010. Before the formal establishment of the foundation in 2012, they worked on the first individual foreign exhibition dedicated to the artist: To the Margin and Back: Andrzej Wróblewski at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.
The goal of the Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation is to develop, disseminate and contextualise knowledge about the life and work of Andrzej Wróblewski. The foundation provides academic and organisational support to cultural institutions, scholars, curators, artists and anyone else interested in researching the subject of the artist’s life and work. In addition, it initiates and organises exhibitions, academic conferences, seminars, symposia, workshops and other artistic events, including primarily national and international research projects.
Its most interesting and largest projects in Poland and globally include: Constantly Looking Ahead at the National Museum in Kraków, Wróblewski According to Wajda at the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, The Perspective of Adolescence: Szapocznikow – Wróblewski – Wajda at the Silesian Museum, Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto / Verso 1948–1949, 1956–1957 at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Andrzej Wróblewski: Verso / Reverso at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, DE.FI.CIEN.CY at the Art Stations Gallery in Poznań, and Andrzej Wróblewski at the David Zwirner Gallery in London.
The foundation also conducts publishing activities devoted to the life and work of Andrzej Wróblewski and Polish- and English-language publications accompany most exhibitions of the artist’s work. In 2014, with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, the foundation published a bilingual monograph entitled Avoiding Intermediary States: Andrzej Wróblewski (1927–1957). The publication is the culmination of the foundation’s two-year research project dedicated to the artist’s work and its new understanding. The material is directed to a wide audience – from academic and artistic circles in Poland and abroad, to anyone interested in contemporary art and the visual culture of the post-war period.
The foundation also runs a bilingual Polish-English online database dedicated to the artist and his work.
Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto/Verso exhibition in Madrid – Image Gallery