Maria Jarema (1908-1958)
Two Forms, 1955
Purchased in 1980

material: monotype, tempera, paper

dimensions: 61x43

author's label: Unsigned; on the reverse the inscription: MARIA JAREMA / DWIE FORMY 1955 (...)

exposition: The Gallery of 20th Century Polish Art,
The Main Building, 1, 3 Maja Av.

key: Kantor, Jarema, Stern <<<
In 1948, all the leading figures of Polish pre-war avant-garde movement took part in the First Exhibition of Modern Art; among them were artists associated with the Krakow Group: Maria Jarema, who had worked with the experimental Teatr Cricot in the 1930s, Jonasz Stern and Tadeusz Kantor, the organiser of the Underground Theatre that operated during the Nazi occupation. Tadeusz Kantor (1915–1990), whose works are one view in the anthracite showspace, is believed to have been “the most Polish of all international artists, and the most international of all Polish artists of our time,” as Jerzy Skarżyński phrased it. His versatile output, both in painting and theatre, set the tone of Polish post-war art. Following the Nazi occupation, he centred around himself the Group of Young Visual Artists, and with them he engaged in a number of projects such as the Exhibition of Modern Art at Krakow’s Art Palace in 1948. In 1957, he co-founded the post-war, “Second” Krakow Group at Galeria Krzysztofory. A person with wide artistic interests, from painting, graphic arts and drawing to set design, theatre direction and art theory, Kantor continuously undertook creative experiments and pursuits in all the media. After 1948 he executed metaphorical images featuring aggressive mechanisms assembled from organic forms, both figurative and distorted in a post-Cubist manner (e.g. Metaphoric Painting I or Metaphoric Painting II of 1950). Having published an article under the meaningful title Abstraction is Dead. Long Live Abstraction after he returned from Paris in 1955, Kantor turned towards Art Informel (improvisatory, informal). Much hyped around the world, the style was defined by Kantor himself as “A descent to Hell, to Inferno,” or painting produced by accident. Particularly appreciated are Kantor’s object compositions, so-called emballage, constructed from objects of everyday use, or “wrecks of daily life”, like bags or a broken umbrella, Kantor’s favourite, of which the artist wrote in the catalogues for an exhibition at Galeria Foksal in 1976: “It is a metaphoric emballage in its own right, a packaging of countless human matters, which entails poetry, uselessness, banality, bleakness, nondescriptness, disinterestedness, hope, ridiculousness”. Tadeusz Kantor’s paintings also took up dialogue with Velázquez’s (the series Infantas) and Goya’s art. His visual works were inseparable from his theatre activity and set designs as well as spectacular happenings. Kantor used to say, joking but still, that he began painting under the influence of Henryk Siemiradzki’s Nero’s Torches, and that his childish dream was to make something nobody had made before: a painting that would move. He made his dream come true in the theatre. Not without humour, he wrote about it: I have been through a lot with painting. It and I became united in life We lived together as partners. What is more: We lived in a love triangle. Myself, painting and theatre. Neither the Holy Church of Painting, or the Holym Church of Theatre could solemnise our union lawfully. We shacked up together. But I have been faithful to both. I could not live without the two of them. We got married illegally. But firmly. For good and for bad! In 1955 Kantor set up a theatre which he named “Cricot 2”. In it he initially played “a game with Witkacy” staging the playwright’s dramas in the Informel convention, and later directed or rather “conducted” his own plays based on autobiographical episodes: The Dead Class (1975), Wielopole, Wielopole (1980), Let Artists Rot (1985), It is My Birthday Today (1990). Art props had their independent roles in the plays, on a par with the actors and sets. They weighed as much as the word. “In that theatre,” wrote the painter Jerzy Nowosielski, “visual, kinetic, acoustic elements and words were in balance. ...That theatre attained the authority of speaking in tongues, as it were. ...It is a great discovery of Kantor’s”. The showroom devoted to the Big Three brings together, interchangeably, elements of sets from Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre productions loaned from the Cricoteka. Another member of Krakow Group, Maria Jarema (1908–1958), an artist associated with Cricot 2, and ranked highly in the avant-garde movement, both in painting and sculpture. She was a student of Xawery Dunikowski: unyielding, consistent in her artistic attitude and at the same time independent in discovering art, relentlessly confronting creative challenges, looking for new techniques and novel concepts. After the war she abandoned oil painting to switch to monotype; fascinated by movement she stood up to recording it: recreating abstract rhythms, convulsive gestures, introducing disturbing, broken, gracious and vibrating forms that were charged with lyricism and maintained in perfect colour schemes. Filters Rhythms and Penetrations are examples of the works she executed in the 1950s. She strove to approach the same subject in small sculptures. The overview of Jarema’s oeuvre is interestingly rounded out in the Gallery by a curtain she designed for Cricot 2 in 1956. In A Letter to Maria Jarema Tadeusz Kantor referred to her as: “The Great Lady of our POLISH PRESENCE Jonasz Stern (1904–1988) was another celebrated artist in the community of the First Krakow Group. In his pre-war and early post-war experiments he was inspired by the work of Wassily Kandinsky and by Expressionism. Subsequently, he combined elements of Cubism with gentle surrealism, as in Bird (1951–1952), later to embark on experiments with Matter Painting, in which he ushered in metaphor. After 1960 he was attracted to structural art, which promoted the sense of material “signs” inscribed into the surface of an image. Stern created images of subtle, delicate colours, built of dissected hide and bones, sometimes entangled into meshes. The subjects of his works often went back to his dramatic personal reminiscences of wartime experience, particularly the narrow escape from death and the Lviv ghetto. Both found reflection in the appalling piece Pit from the series Extermination (1964). In the aftermath of the events of 1968 he ostentatiously took up subjects inspired by Jewish tradition, for example in The Red Table (1971). The collage technique applied here was continued by the artist throughout the 1970s in his Compositions of Forms Killed. Urszula Kozakowska-Zaucha Wacława Milewska

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