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International Festival of Graphic Design – competition

Published: 27 lutego 2024 Views: 391 Art, Exhibitions, Home

Exhibition / New Expression

When: 16 February 2024 – 5 May 2024

Artists: Sylwester Ambroziak, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Mirosław Filonik, Zbigniew Maciej Dowgiałło, Edward Dwurnik, Waldemar Fydrych Major, Anna Gruszczyńska, Ryszard Grzyb, Bożena Grzyb-Jarodzka, Marek Kijewski and Kocur, Grzegorz Klaman, Leszek Knaflewski, Paweł Kowalewski, Mariusz Kruk, Jacek Kryszkowski, Łódź Kaliska, Eugeniusz Markowski, Eugeniusz Minciel, Jarosław Modzelewski, Zdzisław Nitka, Wiesław Obrzydowski, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Pomarańczowa Alternatywa, Sławomir Ratajski, Józef Robakowski, Krzysztof Skarbek, Marek Sobczyk, Leon Tarasewicz, Wojciech Tracewski, Jerzy Truszkowski, Sławomir Witkowski, and Ryszard Woźniak.
Curator: Krzysztof Stanisławski
Coordinators: Renata Sargalska, Ewa Jurkowska, Anna Buller
Production: Wojciech Ruminski

The New Expression exhibition showcases the work of eminent artists active in independent artistic circles in the 1980s. On show are pieces that have since become classics, representing milestones for particular creators. Besides them, there are paintings, drawings and installations which are less known or even unknown, dug out by the artists from attics or from the deepest archives, displayed for the first time in forty years. The intention of the curator was to create a temporary New Expression Museum, providing space for celebrated objects and less popular ones, presenting the work of star artists as well as artists who carried out their practices on the peripheries. The choice of artists and artworks is self-explanatory in many cases, while not at all so in others – careful assessment was made of how the works have stood the test of time, and whether they have managed to retain their vivacity and force of impact. But, ultimately, this is for the public to decide.

Reaching its peak in 1986–7, the style known as New Expression emerged in Poland in the early 1980s – the decade that witnessed the foundation of the Solidarity trade union and the declaration of martial law – and was practically over in 1989, though some exhibitions were still staged in 1992. In terms of form, New Expression was an equal and parallel part of trans-avant-garde (referred to as Arte Cifra or La Transavanguardia in Italy, Neue Wilde in Germany, Figuration Libre in France, and New Image Painting in the United States), a genre that proved very successful artistically and commercially in the 1980s all over the world.

Poland’s “wild” painters could not join the international art scene because martial law forced their country into isolation. Besides that, the boycott of state-owned art galleries declared by independent artists meant that the young creators were not able to reach a wide audience at home. It was only in the second half of the decade that they could present their artworks to the public, hence the accusations of being derivative of Western tendencies made by journalists associated with the communist party.

The first large exhibition of New Expression in Polish art took place at the BWA State Art Gallery in Sopot in summer 1986. It was a recapitulation of sorts, dedicated to artistic practices from the mid-1980s, carried out in private apartments, churches, and student galleries. A year later, in 1987, some particularly relevant shows were staged – most of them in Warsaw. In the Norblin Factory, in an independent space, the show Co słychać? [What’s going on] was presented, while a series of exhibitions dedicated to the work of individual exponents of New Expression took place in other venues.

At the turn of 1987 and 1988, the National Museum in Warsaw housed the Realizm radykalny. Abstrakcja konkretna [Radical Realism. Concrete Abstraction] exhibition, a résumé of the trend that added distinction to it. The show opened with Zbigniew Maciej Dowgiałło’s painting Zatopienie tratwy pełnej komunistów [Sinking of a Raft Crowded with Communists] – this very work opens the exhibition in Toruń. The show at the National Museum was followed by the Second Biennale of New Art in Zielona Góra dominated by New Expression, the Second National Biennale of Young Art held in churches across Wrocław, and many other, small and large, exhibitions. Poland’s “wild” artists made their presence known on the international art scene as well – the Warsaw-based Gruppa took part in Documenta 8 in Kassel, the most important review of new art in Europe.
The display at the Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń contains the earliest works that cleared the way for New Expression: Jarosław Modzelewski’s diploma paintings, made in 1979–80, Ryszard Grzyb’s early canvases, produced before 1980, and compositions by Włodzimierz Pawlak, dating from 1982. The majority of the presented works come from the period between 1984 and 1992. An area of 3,000 sq m has been devoted to the most characteristic “wild” paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations, as well as videos and films, photographs, and documents. This is the biggest New Expression show that has ever been organised in Poland and abroad (the 2017 Kunst der Freiheit exhibition at the Kuehl Haus in Berlin was only slightly smaller). New Expression is a broad panorama, a recreation of the aura of the 1980s and the conditions in which young artists had to create, producing brilliant, bold and original works in an era extremely unfavourable for art.

CoCA’s column hall and entire first floor offer an overview of New Expression and presentations of selected works by several dozens artists, while the rooms on the second floor house two extensive solo shows of the greatest – according to the curator – individuals of New Expression: Ryszard Grzyb and Zdzisław Nitka. They constitute an integral part of the whole exhibition.
On show are also works by the forerunners of New Expression: Eugeniusz Markowski, Edward Dwurnik, and Wiesław Obrzydowski, as well as those created by the film-maker Józef Robakowski, a very sensitive and tender chronicler of the era.
As the preparations for the show are underway, so is work on Wielka księga Nowej ekspresji [The Great Book of New Expression], a monograph on the trend whose prominent position in Polish art is undeniable.

A rich programme of educational events and films will accompany the exhibition, and there is a wide selection of publications devoted to New Expression available at the CoCA Bookshop.


Instytucja finansowana ze środków Miasta Toruń