This exhibition at Krakow's 'Bunkier Sztuki' ('Art Bunker') offers a look at the work of Rafal Bujnowski, an artist who though considered young has shown himself to be artistically mature on a number of occasions.
This exhibition at Krakow's "Bunkier Sztuki" ('Art Bunker') offers a look at the work of Rafal Bujnowski
, an artist who though considered young has shown himself to be artistically mature on a number of occasions. Bujnowski recently completed an 'Art in General' fellowship in New York and is a former member of the renowned creative group LADNIE / PRETTILY. The paintings on view in Krakow, created during the last five years, constitute a highly singular example of an artist's analysis of the medium of painting.
The exhibition's curator had a series of objectives in mind. The first was to call attention to Rafal Bujnowski's singular analysis of one of the oldest artistic media - painting. Bujnowski's approach is to produce representation after representation of a single subject. Each of his paintings is thus stripped of the status that characterizes a solitary work whose value is based on uniqueness. Instead, his canvasses portray objects - most often components of consumer culture - that appear in series of virtually identical 'prints.' Said 'prints,' however, are not mechanically reproduced, but created by Bujnowski by hand. In 1936 Walter Benjamin announced that the concept of the 'aura' of the artwork was in crisis. He saw this as resulting from mechanical reproduction processes that allowed, for instance, photographs to be used as the basis for producing a virtually unlimited number of copied images. In creating series of virtually identical representations, Rafal Bujnowski on the one hand proves that their multiplication does not necessarily denote the death of their 'aura,' and on the other shows that art can still escape mechanization because small yet noticeable differences between the individual 'reproductions' are identifiable. It is noteworthy that Bujnowski's creative gesture demonstrates him to be an artist of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, that is, someone who knows that art exists in the collective mind solely when it is reproduced a sufficient number of times, and best if it is reproduced on common, widely available items (mugs and other gadgets).
The exhibition also seeks to demonstrate Bujnowski as an artist who works with video, a medium that has been appearing among his works for quite some time. The artist uses video to play a game that juxtaposes the traditional concept of painting - understood as a representation produced on canvas using paints - against video images, which he sees as deriving from clusters of electrons. Bujnowski's comparative game consists of using film instead of paint to explore basic academic subjects, including nudes, still lifes and landscapes. These classical subjects thus appear in a different frame - i.e. that provided by a new medium. Yet this choice of means is not a critical statement on Bujnowski's part, nor does it derive from his lack of confidence in painting. Quite the contrary, video and easel painting perfectly complement one another in his oeuvre, working to clarify each other and intensify the experience of the beholder.
The exhibition's third aspect is to explore the role and definition of a painter, who is seen simultaneously as an artist and artisan. Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci wrote a letter to Duke Sforza in an attempt to get a position at the duke's court. Leonardo listed the services he could provide, claiming an ability to design fortifications, create temporary scenery for court celebrations and, if necessary, paint portraits. Times changed, and the Romantic era brought a change in the stance of artists. Rafal Bujnowski, not unlike the famed Renaissance artist, not only creates paintings, but will, if necessary, also paint the walls of a gallery (which he proved when with great commitment he renovated the 'Art Bunker's' façade as part of the "POPelita" / "POPelite" exhibition in 2001). Graphic art, which for years was seen as a component of the applied arts, also lies within the artist's interests. Bujnowski's series of 'portraits' of everyday items, titled ARTYKULY SPOZYWCZO-PRZEMYSLOWE / FOOD AND INDUSTRIAL ITEMS, are an ironic comment on this definition of graphic art. The concepts of 'service' and 'artisanship' are also embodied in his OBRAZY DO MIESZKANIA / PAINTINGS FOR THE HOME. In creating these works the artist took on the role of a contemporary trendsetter, designing paintings that would be most appropriate for specific spaces in specific homes (e.g. a wedding portrait for the bedroom, a still life featuring a lemon for the kitchen) and pointing out where these representations should be displayed.
As Marek Krajewski writes in the exhibition catalogue, Bujnowski demonstrates a need to create material pieces that would be meta-objects, serving beholders by assisting them to think about the things that fill our world.
Rafal Bujnowski (b. 1974) is a painter and graphic artist who recently began using the medium of video in his works. From 1993-1995 he studied architecture at Krakow Technical University and went on to complete a degree in graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (1995-2000). From 1994 to 2001 he was an active member of the LADNIE / PRETTILY creative group and concurrently (1998-2001) managed the Galeria Otwarta (Open Gallery) in Krakow. It was there that he began exhibiting his posters of everyday objects. Though these resembled ads in supermarkets, the objects themselves were not available for purchase. Bujnowski is interested in artistic interventions in public space, as well as in issues related to art's commercialization and its loss of all but material value. He continues to actively document the transformation of artworks into advertising tools or utilitarian items.
This exhibition is a component of the "Year of Poland in Germany"
, an event that is being organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute
. Curator: Maria Anna Potocka. Coordinator: Anna Smolak.
Galeria Sztuki Wspolczesnej "Bunkier Sztuki"
Director: Maria Anna Potocka
pl. Szczepanski 3 a, 31-011 Krakow
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