Monika Sosnowska, Wilhelm Sasnal and Katarzyna Kozyra are a few of the familiar faces being shown in the Brussel's BOZAR art exhibition.
Curated by David Crowley, Zofia Machnicka, Dr Andrzej Szczerski, the show comprises some 200 works, featuring many significant works from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Jakub Julian Ziółkowski's "Great Battle Under the Table", Józef Mehoffer's "Strange Garden" and Andrzej Wróblewski's "Execution VIII", along with works by Tadeusz Kantor, Magadalena Abakanowicz and Bruno Schulz.
The overlying themes of the exhibition seek to demonstrate how magic, madness and the absurd have founded an integral part of the works of Polish artists as a result of monumental social and political change after the fall of communism. Through the absurd, the works of such artists came to illustrate the social and political chaos of Poland's recent history. Many of these works are a form of resistance art, with images depicting an intense and sometimes dream-like reality that provide an alternative perspective on the prevailing system and rebels against it. These artists explore the full potential of the imagination, the show reveals a culture full of intense visions and strange dreams The works are arranged across thematic series, rather than a strict chronological order. Topics covered include history and memory, the militant imagination, surreal landscapes, the image of the hero, madness and absurdity. Artists take their inspiration from personal experiences to concrete housing blocks and emblems of the former socialist regime.
Divided throughout the 19th century, occupied during the Second World War, and subsequently under the Soviet yoke for decades, Poland became a democracy in 1989. In this wounded country, victim of a succession of oppressive regimes, there developed a flourishing culture that gave expression, down the centuries, to a spirit of resistance to any order imposed from outside. Via the absurd and the fantastic, Polish artists reacted to the chaos of the real world with art imbued with a spirit of resistance, not in order to flee reality, but with a view to reconstructing it. Their works will be juxtaposed with seminal Polish works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries, exploring just how deeply rooted the exploration of the fantastic and the irrational is in Polish art.
For this generation of artists, like others before them, fantasy has not been a way of escaping reality but of challenging it. Largely born in the late 1960s and 1970s, they have crossed two worlds: their childhoods and youth were lived in the People’s Republic of Poland, whilst their careers have been made in democratic Poland. Their work is inflected by a contrarianism that cast doubt on both. In this way – artists like Artur Zmijewski and Zbigniew Libera – sustain a tradition of dissent and critical reflection which is deeply-rooted in Polish culture. Polish artists are deeply interested in the ways in which history can be folded into the present.
Fantasy takes a variety of forms. The fantastic can also be shaped out the ordinary. Hardship, bureaucracy and censorship have not been entirely negative experiences for Poland, at least in the sense that they have stimulated a remarkable resourcefulness in the nation. Poles have a talent of being able to make anything out of nothing. In the 1950s Leopold Tyrmand writing called this capacity 'Applied Fantasy'.
Today's artists continue to tap this resourcefulnessIn the work of neo-surrealist painter Julian Jakub Ziolkowski as well as the Baroque filmic fantasies of Katarzyna Kozyra, it is conveyed in feverish excess. For other artists, it is the former socialist environment – much disparaged in the popular imagination – which has power to stimulate the imagination. As art, ordinary towns and streets can become a magic world containing many overlooked possibilities and unfulfilled potential. Concrete housing blocks and public buildings become playgrounds of the imagination in the work of Monika Sosnowska, Julita Wojcik and Jaroslaw Kozakiewicz.
The exhibition takes on an interdisciplinary form with contemporary paintings being accompanied by installations such as Maciek Kurak's "Fifty-Fifty", in which a Polish FIAT car powers a sewing machine and Katarzyna Kozyra's video works. Paweł Althamer's community sculpture entitled "Bródno People" was made in collaboration with the inhabitants of Warsaw's Bródno district. There are also a number of special commissions, such as Mariusz Waras' wall of art work, which is to be produced on-site. Instead of a comprehensive chronology, thematic distinctions exhibition works.
Artists: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Akademia Ruchu, Paweł Althamer, Mirosław Bałka, Wojciech Bąkowski, Olaf Brzeski, Anna Janczyszyn, Katarzyna Józefowicz, Tadeusz Kantor, Szymon Kobylarz, Jarosław Kozakiewicz, Katarzyna Kozyra, Igor Krenz, Zofia Kulik, Maciej Kurak, Robert Kuśmirowski, Zbigniew Libera, Bronisław Wojciech Linke, Marcin Maciejowski, Jacek Malczewski, Józef Mechoffer, Paulina Ołowska, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Wilhelm Sasnal, Jan Simon, Bruno Schulz, Monika Sosnowska, Leopold Tyrmand, Piotr Uklański, Mariusz Waras, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Julita Wójcik, Andrzej Wróblewski, Jakub Julian Ziółkowski, Artur Żmijewski.
The exhibition is accompanied by a full-colour illustrated catalogue.
For more information, see: www.bozar.be
Honourary patronage: President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski
On the 9th of September, 2011, First Lady Anna Komorowska was a guest at the exhibition
Date: 24th of June- 18th of September, 2011
Venue: Palais des Beaux-Arts, (BOZAR) - Centre for Fine Arts Brussels, Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Bruxelles, Tel. 02 507 82 00
Organised by: the Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR), Polish Institute in Brussels, National Museum in Kraków, the Polish Insitute in Brussels and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute
See photo gallery of major works from the exhibition: The Power of Fantasy - Image Gallery
Financial Times columnist Jackie Wullschlager has deemed the current exhibition of Polish modern and contemporary art at the prestigious BOZAR centre in Brussels "world-class". For more information on the review see: Financial Times Writer Applauds The Power of Fantasy.