Creative Global Network for the Visual Arts

Afterimages of Life. Władysław Strzemiński and Rights for Art

Place: ms², 19 Ogrodowa St.
Dates: 30th November 2010 – 27th February 2011
Vernissage: 30th November 2010, 6.00 pm.
Exhibition design: Katja Strunz
Curators: Paulina Kurc-Maj, Jarosław Lubiak


Consultation: Zenobia Karnicka Władysław Strzemiński is an iconic figure, one of the most radical artists connected with the inter-war avant-garde movement in Poland. He is also a crucial figure for the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz: it is thanks to his efforts that the International Collection of Modern Art of the “a.r” group was created and marked the beginnings of the institution. Afterimages of Life is the first monographic exhibition of the artist in the period of the last 17 years. Its objective is the re-interpretation of Władysław Strzemiński’s works and placing them in the context of contemporary world. The multi-layered activities of Strzemiński aimed not only at transforming of the so-called high art – painting, sculpture, architecture – but also at transforming the broadly-understood design, which would eventually lead to transformation of men’s surroundings and their lives. Today, his attitude is generally interpreted solely in historical context but the questions to which he tried to find answers – what laws govern art, what are art’s rights, can art be separated from life and to what extent can art influence life – seem to be topical still.
What are „afterimages”, the key notion to Strzemiński’s theory of seeing? Physiologically speaking, retina retains the object for a longer time than the moment of seeing the ting actually lasts: it remembers the image although the gaze has already. This is why the eye has a possibility of overlapping and mixing images: those that are still on the retina, although we do not look at them anymore, and those we see in real time. It can thus be said that the overlapping of images makes it possible to transfer visual elements from one area onto the other, e.g. from painting onto sculpture, from sculpture onto architecture, from architecture onto life. This was some phenomena discovered in painting can be applied in everyday life, interior design, or even urban planning design.
The second part of the title: Władysław Strzemiński and Rights for Art refers to the artist’s deliberations on the „right” to which he devoted a large part of his research. Strzemiński was deeply convinced that art has the right to participate in life and life has the right to participate in art. Art then, according to Strzemiński should discover essential elements of life and create their artistic counterparts. Art is not a creation separated from reality but functions within it and results from it.

Broadening the field of interpretation of Strzemiński’s works, the curators invited a German artist, Katja Strunz, who re-works the theme of avant-garde in her own work, to cooperate in creating the exhibition. Thanks to her intervention in the shape of the architecture of the exhibition we are given a new commentary to the works of Strzemiński. Strunz, using the letters of Strzemiński’s alphabet created in the 1930s, put together the word Zeittraum, That outlines the space of the exhibition.

Afterimages of Life. Władysław Strzemiński and Rights for Art are the largest and the most important production of the Museum in 2010. The exhibition is accompanied by a series of lectures conducted by international guests, an analytic seminar of reading Strzemiński’s theoretical texts, a discussion panel and workshops and educational activities for wide audiences. Related to the exhibition, three publications will be issued: the exhibition catalogue, a brochure connected with Katja Strunz’s artistic design and a book consisting of interpretations aimed at filling the gap in research into Strzemiński’s works.

Władysław STRZEMIŃSKI (1893-1952) – is considered to be the most important figure of avant-garde art in Poland. A painter, graphic artist, theoretician and educator, he was the pioneer of avant-garde in the Poland of the 1920s and 1930s. The theory of Unism he developed is an important contribution to the history of world art of the 20th century. His theoretical activities dominated the avant-garde art. thought. He was the author of many books and articles: Unism in Painting (1928), Space Composition. Time-Space Rhythm and its Calculations (1931) – written together with his wife, Katarzyna Kobro – and Theory of Vision published posthumously (1958) count among the most important ones. A student and a close friend of Kasimir Malevich, he brought to Poland and disseminated the ideas of constructivism. He was a member of the most important avant-garde groups of the 1920s: „Blok” „Praesens” and „a.r.”. He was also the organiser of modern art: in 1929, with the members of “a.r.”, he begun collecting the International Collection of Modern Art that consisted of donations by the representatives of European avant-garde: Theo van Doesburg, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, Pablo Picasso (lost during World War II) and others. In 1931, at the J. and K. Bartoszewicz Municupal Museum of History and Art in Lodz (today: Muzeum Sztuki), a room of modern art. was opened: one of the first permanent museum exhibitions in the world devoted to avant-garde art. Almost 20 years later, in 1948, Strzemiński designed the Neoplastic Room in the newly obtained building of Muzeum Sztuki, whose sole purpose was the presentation of the Collection. After the Second World War, Strzemiński was a lecturer at the Academy of Art in Lodz for a short time. In that time he passed on the avant-grade traditions onto the students in spite of the social realism starting to dominate in the field of art. He educated a generation of artists for whom his creative output has remained a reference point until today. It is thanks to himself and his wife Katarzyna Kobro that Lodz has come to be associated with avant-garde and modern art in general.

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