Exhibition 5 Tons of Sculpture in Orońsko
Gardens of the University Library in Warsaw
56/60 Dobra Street, 00-312 Warsaw
10 April – 15 October 2017
Curator: Eulalia Domanowska
Collaboration: Leszek Golec and Jarosław Pajek
Arrangement: Henryk Gac
Participants: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maciej Aleksandrowicz, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Jan Berdyszak, Tomasz Domański, Robert Kaja, Alicja Łukasiak and Grzegorz Drozd, Robert Rumas, Anna Siekierska, Tomasz Skórka.
The exhibition was prepared by the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko and presented in the autumn 2016 at the Millenáris Park in Budapest during the Art Market Budapest, and in the winter 2017 at the Sculpture Park in Orońsko. Now in a slightly modified form, it will be shown in the gardens of the University Library in Warsaw for the coming six months. It is a collection of outdoor sculpture of 10 Polish artists collaborating with our institution, including classics, of which Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jan Berdyszak are best known, artists of middle-age generation and one younger but already conspicuous artist, Anna Siekierska. The sculptures, objects and interactive installations are both figurative and abstract. They present various interpretative clues: from ecological, contemplative, utopian, sociological to postconceptual ones. Maciej Aleksandrowicz’s Look Around and Cooperation made by the group Zmiana Organizacji Ruchu (Łukasiak, Drozd) are interactive constructions which can be moved by viewers. Made from diverse materials: bronze, steel, metal sheet, stainless steel and concrete they represent various approaches to the medium of sculpture.
The herd of three Mutants by Magdalena Abakanowicz was created in 2000. The synthetic steel forms are hybrids which are supposed to remind us that our bonds with the animal and prehistoric world are undeniable. ‘Yet, the strangeness of Mutants goes beyond these boundaries. These creatures are associated not only with accessibility and trust, they also bring to mind fear and threat. Like men, women and children of Abakanowicz-made crowds, they are survivors whose ability to survive is uncertain. (…) They make an impression of almost metaphysical feeling of being lost. (…) From the very beginning Magdalena Abakanowicz’s sculptures had a ceremonial dimension’[i]. Mutants evoke various associations with nomadic life but also with sacrifice. They stand together with craned necks, blind, helpless, like cattle awaiting slaughter. American critic, Michael Brenson sees in those sculptures shaman rituals, references to journeys, people assuming poses and costumes of nature. However, the metal mutants, consisting of brutally welded sheets, can also be associated with an army ready for battle. Magdalena Abakanowicz said that ‘Art can have many meanings, it may refer to many associations, metaphors and be separate information resulting from culture, knowledge, intellectual level. (…) Only the metaphoric language of art could become my agreement with the surrounding reality. Art is not a profession or a skill. It is a necessity and a way of existence’[ii].
Krzysztof M. Bednarski, sculptor born in Krakow 1953, presents his sculpture Hommage à carré noir, created in 1998. Its main element is a lion made of patinated bronze – a copy of the original from the 19th century, which brilliantly blends in with the natural landscape of the Warsaw gardens.
The highly contrasting, black and white object which appears in the gardens of the Warsaw library was made by a two-man artistic group, called Zmiana Organizacji Ruchu [Change in the Traffic Organization] consisting of Alicja Łukasiak and Grzegorz Drozda; it is a see-saw with double-faced, centrally placed mirrors. The object, titled Cooperation is a sort of sculpture that allows for active participation of viewers in its functioning. The use of these objects requires collaboration of at least two people. The users sitting opposite each other, provide balance which allows for joint play in which instead of a partner we can see our own mirror reflection. This situation makes participants joyful and generates strong emotions. Without seeing the person we are interacting with, we are moving in the rhythm of our own reflection in the mirror.
Tomasz Domański’s Drifts are a modular work of steel, consisting of 22 elements fitted one to another. This is the artist’s early work made in the Orońsko studios at the beginning of the 90s, when he was inspired by minimal art practiced by American artists’ who found crucial such basic qualities of an object as its dimension, material, colour and texture. The modules may be separated and arranged in any way, which gives the possibility of building various compositions from the same elements.
Tomasz Skórka, an artist from Gdansk, deals with figurative sculptures, usually situated in public spaces. He creates, for instance, a series of weights which assume the form of animals, children or surrealistic compositions made in concrete. The artist declares that he keeps trying to make his works resistant to the rough outdoor conditions and to make them as alien objects blend in with the natural surroundings. He explores the theme from the genre of garden sculptures.
The work of Rober Kaja, another Gdansk artist presented in this exhibition, was very aptly defined by Prof. Anna Zeidler-Janiszewska: (…) ‘he practises philosophy of culture using visual, and in particular sculptural, means whose integral part is made by a reflection on the changing role of art in human life’. Going further, but using the words defining the artist’s area of interests as a road sign, for a long time Kaja has been interested in the bonds and mutual relations between popular culture and art. the artist examines and presents the tensions which rule the opposites. The sculpture 12=12 presents the form of a star which gets transformed into a cross.
Maciej Aleksandrowicz, artist from Warsaw, presents his interactive object Look Around which was created several years ago within in framework of a Polish-Norwegian project Pure Art. It used to stand over Hardanger fjord in central Norway. Built of several vertical mirror modules, it reflects the surroundings. However, the surfaces arranged at different angles simultaneously deconstruct the view, showing only fragments of the landscape. By turning the construction, the viewers themselves perform a deconstruction of the view.
Robert Rumas, sculptor who makes objects, installations and interventions, and designs exhibitions, in 1991 graduated from the Faculty of Painting at the High School of Plastic Arts in Gdansk. He is interested in the problems of society as an object of manipulation in the context of notions referring to religion, nation and race. He performs interventions into the social tissue of cities (Urban Maneuvers) introducing into it his own signs in accordance with the real, social functioning of certain urban areas. It is supposed to provoke the inhabitants into taming the urban space by placing new types of road signs there. The artist designed a whole series of them, inter alia: Mind the Homeless, You Can Beg Here, No Gossiping and others. The action has the nature of urban guerilla – the signs are placed illegally, like a virus introduced into the strict system of road signs and according to the conviction that a city is a ‘living and feeling body’, as Rumus emphasizes. He was mounting the new signs in selected spots of Gdansk and Krakow himself. The artist is planning a continuation of his action in various cities. You can also find them in many spots of the Warsaw garden.
Anna Siekierska is a graduate of the Faculty of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Her diploma project House for Hens was shown at the exhibitions of best diplomas of artistic academies in Warsaw 2013 and in Glasgow in 2014, as well as at the 6th Young Triennial at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko. She creates wooden constructions on the basis of traditional carpenter’s methods. The crucial idea of her works is an ethical approach to animals and natural environment. In March 2016 she stayed at a month-long artistic residency at the Centre of Polish Sculpture, creating here two installations addressing the theme of hunting. At present she lives in a self-built house in the Sub-Carpathian region. The sculpture Buddapest – the figure of a lonely figure sitting in a Buddha –like pose makes a stunning impression. Its black coat filled with seeds has become a feeder for birds. The idea of giving, generosity and respect towards nature present in Buddhism has become a context for this sculpture.
[i] Michael Brenson, „Zwierzęce rytuały”, Konteksty 2006, no 3–4, pp. 177–179.
[ii] „Sztuka to konieczność”. Ewa Izabela Nowak interviews Prof. Magdalena Abakanowicz, in: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Orońsko 2013, p. 8, catalogue.