Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
A GENTLE TOUCH OF GRAVITY
Works from 1982–2016
Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
26 November 2016 – 15 January 2017
Ryszard Ługowski’s retrospective at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko 2016 aims to introduce to us the works of an artist who was extremely active in various fields of art as well as to give us a view of his over thirty-year-long work. The architecture of Orońsko museum allows for such an arrangement of the exhibition that works can be accessible in two different interpenetrating orders, like a tale based on successively retrieved memories, interwoven with those that diverge from their timeline. The chronological arrangement of works lets us track the changes in his artistic stance, the use of new materials in his works and discovery of new problems. The open character of the museum space allows us to follow with our eyes along the whole exhibition and turn to those works which interest us, regardless of the date of their creation. Just after crossing the threshold we can see the whole exhibition.
The chronological order of Ługowski’s oeuvre goes clockwise. We start from the painting from his diploma exhibition, from the period of his fascination with ancient cultures, their richness and enticing mysteriousness. Ługowski examined hieroglyphs, cuneiform script, Sanskrit, Hebrew and Greek alphabet, the symbolism and magic of particular letters. Next to his first painting, we find The Black Box, work evoking the emotion of terror, like Andy Warhol’s electric chairs, or an instrument for torture. It is in fact the first work made from various elements and imitating a ready-made. Since that time the artist would use for the building of his installations materials or objects he found and then would adapt them to his vision of the artwork. In the second half of the eighties and in the nineties, Ługowski was interested in alchemy both as an academic practice and a cultural phenomenon. In his artistic practice he referred to the processes of metabolism, and later to the transformation and transgression of not only material but also spiritual character. The works from that period - so intimate and separate in their expression - are sculptural objects and installations. They are situated in the context of art of objects and space of the 20th century – art whose character was marked by the attitudes of, on the one hand, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwiters, and on the other of Jannis Kounellis, James Turrell, Robert Smithson and others.
Later on, in the works from the 90s, in the installations Stroker, Fitting Room, The Rings of Saturn which opened a new period, there appeared new means of expression in the artist’s oeuvre. The time is Ryszard Ługowski’s crucial problem, organizing his thought and artistic practice. The artist uses and interprets what he found in ancient myths and philosophy, in modern physics and astronomy. He combines the visions of cosmos with woman’s body, the romantic beauty of ruins and destruct with the constructions built from everyday objects, e.g. kitchen utensils. He combines various objects, provokes emotions and associations as if he wanted to find a way of reaching our subconscious mind, archetypes, the first principles of our sensitivity. In The Rings of Saturn he uses a common garden hose, in the Stroker he used the base of an old sewing machine, in The Journey to the Most Remote Place, he used a cast iron stove and the bristles from an ordinary broom as well as a woman’s torso he had sculpted. In the installation Exstasis he used the effigies of women’s faces in ecstasy contrasting them with the tombstone poetics of an oval porcelain photograph.
Back in 1996 in some of his works Ługowski referred to the aesthetics of Islam, praying accessories, cityscape dominated by minarets. Perverse beauty, clash of contrasts and different dimensions of time, the real one and one from political prophecies, combination of means, reaching for illusion and editing in video films and photography – all this is Ługowski’s constant questions about the dimensions of the times we live in.
In his works from the last dozen years Ryszard Ługowski used a sniper’s gun as well as professional astronomical and photographic equipment. Commenting on our reality in an indirect way, he did not use events and their documentation in a journalistic way but he referred to the emotions they evoked, to the imaginings of our life and fantasies allowing to escape from everyday reality. The artist uses objects found in shops with tacky, kitsch gadgets: little tables, lace tablecloths, plaster torsos of Venus, rocking horses, photographs of faces cut out from advertisements of sexual services – we will find them all at this exhibition.
However, the objects that make the installation Capsules seem to be radically different. On solid foundations, built from a metal bevel, two steel capsules were placed; they looked very heavy and seemed to keep their contents very safe. Their task would rely on carrying onto space the genetic material of the most outstanding artists. This mission will be conducted by ERES General Partnership, a fictitious institution established by the artist in order to provide people with positive experiences of beauty and joy, and offer faith in the future.
For many years the artist has been making sound installations, building constellations from Tibetan singing bowls and gongs; he moves them, strokes and hits – he achieves sounds facilitating contemplation and immersion in the silence of imagined cosmos. You could acknowledge that the performance with Tibetan bowls is a reference to the installation Tubular Bells. It is the artist’s latest work, prepared specially for this exhibition at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko. The installation of steel bars vertically hanging down the ceiling organizes the space of almost eighty square metres.
At the exhibition we encounter sculptures, paintings, photographs, video, installations, performance. We will find various means and techniques which the artist uses to talk about human transience, of life and death, of eroticism, suffering, belief in transformation, in the possibility of communication and sharing experiences. In his art Ryszard Ługowski seems to flirt with ordinary tastes and leads a dialogue with people well settled in the world of contemporary art. He gives all his works original titles, which are intrinsic to the poetics of his activities and are a key element of artistic provocation, at other times they point to a trail of interpretations as it happens in the case of installations Torus, Medulla or Peregrinus.
If it is individualism and authenticity that we still associate with art, then in the case of Ryszard Ługowski’s oeuvre it seems best at home.
The artist has had many solo exhibitions, and participated in over a hundred group exhibitions. Since 1984 he has been working at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, since 2002 he has collaborated with the Institute of Fine Arts of the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce. His works appear in museum and private collections in Poland and abroad. He lives and works in Warsaw.