No 2 (82) 2010
April - June


Painting by Maciej Kozłowski comes in closed units. The artist has painted series conceived as full, complete statements. This makes easier the review of considerable yet achievements by this young artist.

Agnieszka Gniotek

Art historian and critic. She publishes her texts in the following periodicals: Format, Opcje, Private Banking and Arteon. She specializes in the latest art problems, photography and collecting.

Agnieszka Gniotek

The most recent series of his pictures, entitled "10-0" has been showed for the first time in the Warsaw Dyeing Plant (Farbiarnia). It offers pieces differing in stylistic measures from earlier works by Kozłowski. Their narrative layer, however, refers to the topics that have interested the artist from the very beginning of his creative path. In most general terms, one can sum it up as poetics of large city streets and ever present mass media. Stuffed with commercials and brutal images of best selling, hot "news" on wars and catastrophes offered with full approval under regime political and social pressure, and seemingly democratic consumption terrorism. This has been a reflection on the late capitalism lifestyle in an information society.

Kozłowski remains on the sidelines of these phenomena. He observes and comments. His approach, however , is not coolly diagnostic, rather strongly involved, at least at the aesthetic level. Former series by this artist featured pure palette, flat color spots, distinctive outlines and texts written into the picture - a title and simultaneously a commentary - meant as the simplest label. These have described tower block teenagers, anti intellectual, with criminal inclinations. Considering the style, this has been a certain form of pop triviality, originally packaged, typical of the generation: somewhere in between the Nice (Ładnie) Group and "The Polish - Russian War" by Dorota Masłowska. "10-0" is a much more mature statement, truly original, and surprisingly more radical. Against the background of the latter, the former series by the artist have got even more legitimate. One can see that they have not been merely an aesthetic and topical reflection of interests of a given generation group but offered carefully developed icons sphere pertinent to Kozłowski.

The latest works, traditionally spaced pictures, apply the measures totally belonging to the street art, template and graffiti; known from underground posters distributed without a permission, computer "shooting" games or tattoo designs. This borrowing has been well justified. Kozłowski identifies himself with this type of aesthetic. This has been the "climate" of his youth, only later polish and refined at the Academy of Fine Arts; as one can see without much success.

"10-0" has been loaded with emotional images expressed basically in two colors: black and red. These hues combination, though sparing, is heating up the atmosphere. One will find here neither a smooth spot, nor a subdued contour. On the contrary. The manner of painting suggests taking notes in haste, as though he were a graffiti painter acting at night, high on a shot of adrenaline, playing a "cat and mouse" game with the police. This, however, is only an appearance. Each composition has been carefully planned and constructed. There has been no place for a haphazard gesture. At a closer glance, the aesthetics of free expression turns out to be a "cheat". The perfect "cheating", accurately based on inspirations going back to the canvases by great predecessors - firemen artists who made gigantic in size historical pictures; such as Matejko, Kossak, but also Delacroix. Further, this "cheating" has taken from world icons of report photography of the Magnum sign. How much has Kozłowski been aware of these borrowings? Fully, I believe. I am not inclined to be misled by an ostensible severity of his latest canvases. They are as much sincere, as calculated.

Przemysław Jędrowski, the exhibition curator, approaches the recent series by Kozłowski as a manifesto and didactic instruction. He has written: Kozłowski reminds how fragile our sense of safety is, where self satisfaction and prosperity might lead. He points out our lack of empathy towards the less fortunate; he seems to be shouting: the count out has started, cars might get on fire on your street, soon they might be coming after you (...). He has posed a provocative question: which side are you on? " I doubt the didactic aspects. I see Kozłowski rather as an involved observer, than as a preaching guru.

Maciej Kozłowski, "10-0" , The Dyeing Plant in Piękna, St. Art Gallery, Warsaw, April-May 2010.