No 2 (90) 2012
April - June

Playing Red

„Can frozen, motionless sculpting matter catch up with the dynamic, fluid postmodern art?"1 The Red Crossbar exhibition provokes a question on traditional understanding of a sculpture form, discipline limits and its contemporary place

Malwina Domagała

Historian and art critic. PhD student at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Malwina Domagała

THE TITLE RED CROSSBAR HAS BEEN A RECONSTRUCTION OF THE WORK, artistic action performed by Krzysztof M. Bednarski in 1973 during his entrance exam to the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy Sculpture Faculty. Each candidate received a stick to apply as a sculpting material, and the exam task was "to make a space composition using available means". Bednarski has given a new meaning to an ordinary object. He painted the stick red and placed it parallel to the floor inside a frame of the door that led to the room where an examination commission sat. The game with the space, a symbolic gesture of putting up a barrier to make entry more difficult, revealed ambivalent aspects of the situation. The commission's dignity has been hurt since in order to enter the room, one had to bend down and cross the marked red line.

The place - that witnessed the symbolic, artistic gesture by Bednarski - at present houses the Academy Salon owned by the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where the Red Crossbar exhibition has touched upon an issue of the material existence of sculpture. The artists taking part in the exhibition approached the gallery space as a specific test laboratory , an area of exploration of sculpture physical properties resulting - among others - from its contingence, bulk, structure, size, density, form shaping and meaning. The artists, following their own creative concepts, have applied versatile expression means in the zone of inter media art.

Izabela Tarasewicz has probed carnal aspects of sculpture, displaying the Small Man (2009) made out of resin, plasticine, Styrofoam and animal remnants, that is prepared pig bladders. The "Sculpture Body", sarcophagus shaped, has been covered with a layer of flesh color plasticine that provided a coating sensitive to temperature. In low temperatures, it hardens, gets frozen. In higher temperatures, or when touched, it softens; one can knead it or smooth out its surface.

Olaf Brzeski has pursued a traditional sculpture topic: a model study. Francis Thorburn, a British artist and Brzeski's friend has posed for him smoking crack. Completely stupefied, he slumped down. The form of the Francis and Crack (2012) sculpture has been a visual reflection of the model's condition. A human silhouette has lost its carnal qualities, got schematic, while anatomical details have been reduced to a three dimensional, symbolic sign.

A figurative form has been expressed by means of a linear, vertical contour to give an impression of being constructed of sticks, grass and impermanent matter. In fact, these have been metal and bronze bars.

The Universal Visual Code (2011) by Norman Leto is a digital "sculpture". One can see virtually generated gallery space, sculptures, installations that delude with their three dimensional and material qualities; adopt various shapes and arrangements. In fact, these have been an artificial creation, a video projection.

Further, Wojciech Bąkowski has entered the audio visual area. The Explanations Storage (2012) is a free-standing installation composed of a wooden plinth with a glass vessel - an aquarium full of murky water - put on it. A static form of the object has been disturbed by the artist's voice heard through a loudspeaker placed inside the aquarium, thus making the water vibrate. The audience will never learn what he is telling inside the aquarium, since they can merely hear the disrupted sounds that make waves on the water. This is where constantly pulsating sculpture form is being born.

Sublimed forms sensed in the presented pieces have led to gradual dematerialization of sculpture, and its physical absence. The Tell Me What the Exhibition Is about (2006) by Wojtek Pustoła applies only sound, an audio track. The room resounds with talk about sculptures by the artist. The sound is what remains in the space.

1 - Stach Szabłowski, catalogue

The "Red Crossbar", the Academy Salon, Warsaw, February - March 2012.