Monday, November 15, 2010

Poland, part 2

It's not like Poland doesn't have books and printed material ready to go. One of the first things that struck me when I started snooping around museum bookstores in Warsaw was that there are already quite a few scholarly anthologies in print, many of them in bilingual editions. Monographs, too, are in abundance and not just for the big names. But there is absolutely no distribution system for these books, and actually kind of a hidebound bureaucracy in place that resists sending the books out of Poland! I asked everyone I met if they knew this was the case and what they thought about it. For most of those I spoke with, it was not news that the books didn't get out but they were surprised that there was a ready and eager market for it if they did. More on that to come. But happily, one book did reach me a few years ago, a slim volume by Nicholas Grospierre. I'd been impressed by what I'd seen -- I even had him on a roster for a show I was considering -- but I just assumed he was French. It turns out Nicholas is half Polish and has spent much of his adult life in Warsaw. When Jan said this was going to be the first stop on the first day, I was pleasantly surprised that it was an artist I knew of and had been curious about for years. Nicholas has a number of satisfying and exciting projects, but I think the best are his explorations of how photography can be sculptural. His installations in 1:1 ratios of the original object, such as "The Library", are equal parts essay, sculpture, and photo. I'm less excited by his documentary work, but all of it is of a consistently high quality. He has a solid, well-developed body of work that is just waiting for some smart US gallery to snap him up.

The Centre for Contemporary Art is a beacon in the Warsaw art scene. Situated in a former castle overlooking the city, it is one of the few institutions dedicated to contemporary art. From my perspective, it is significant because it is the first Polish art institution to name a full-time curator of Photography. (Photography is still the poor cousin in the mind of the Polish art establishment. It is under-recognized, under-funded, not well researched, and often poorly archived.) The curator of photography at the CCA is Adam Mazur. Adam is an articulate and intense advocate for all things photographic in Poland. He's keenly aware of the deficit of information about the history of Polish photography both inside and outside of Polish borders. He's published a number of books and has curated numerous well-regarded shows highlighting Polish work. Here's a link with Adam talking about his book, "The Histories of Photography in Poland 1839–2009", from Krakow Month of Photography site. And another link with details about his exhibition of 21st Century Polish Photography, "The Red Eye Effect", which also had a published catalog. He's virtually alone in his position in Polish photography. Definitely someone to watch; he's smart, ambitious, and ready for prime-time.

One of the artists in the Red Eye show is named Wojciech Wilczyk. His website, for some reason I can't explain, doesn't list the book he did, called "There's No Such Thing As An Innocent Eye", which creates a typology of structures in Poland that had been Synagogues or Jewish prayer houses and are now something else. It's a super book, and yet another example of a publication that could sold in a hundred US venues to commercial and critical success.

Raster is an independent art space in Warsaw, established in 2001, exhibiting and representing emerging artists from Poland and abroad. They are one of the most well-known and well-funded of the galleries that consistently show in the West. There is also a Raster Foundation which follows generally the same program as the gallery but doesn't have the commercial component. The program of Raster is not merely focused on visual art but also includes screenings, discussions, literature events, concerts as well as informal meetings focused on the local community. Raster is run by Lukasz Gorczyca and Michal Kaczynski who have been established in the art community for some time due to their dynamic activity as critics and curators.I met with Lukasz and had a lively discussion about the Polish art scene and about the roster of his gallery. He was eager to introduce me to the opus of Aneta Grzeszykowska. I'd seen (and disliked) her "Untitled Film Stills" at Basel Statements 3 years ago, but there are a number of projects which I found satisfying and complex. The best for me is a photo album work which is culled from her actual personal family archives, but in which she has carefully edited out any trace of herself. I also liked her riff on Thomas Ruff portraits made entirely out of manufactured, fictitious physiognomies.

Coming next, more from Warsaw and 24 hours in Poznan.

1 comment:

  1. Evan, it's really great to read about a scene in our country from different perspective! I'm looking forward to read next post about your trip:) All best, Karol