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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » January 21, 2009
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Austrian Goya in Cracow
January 21, 2009 By Edyta Gajewska   
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There's time only until Jan. 27 to see a great exhibition in Cracow: In the Shadows of the Imagination-the Art of Alfred Kubin. This is Poland's first such presentation of works by the brilliant Austrian graphic artist, painter, book illustrator and writer on such a scale. It is part of a cycle devoted to Austrian avant-garde art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, staged regularly over the years by the International Cultural Center (MCK). To date, exhibitions have included presentations of works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Otto Wagner.

Alfred Kubin (1877-1959), dubbed "the Austrian Goya," used art as a means of freeing himself of the fears, phobias, personal tragedies and spiritual crises that plagued him, creating a unique visual language of extraordinarily expressive power.

The fine, representative selection of works in this exhibition allows viewers to see not only the gloomy drawings most often associated with Kubin, filled with visions of nightmarish specters, but also grotesque everyday scenes. A few color drawings, a rarity for the artist, are also on display. The interesting arrangement is supplemented by quotes from the artist's books (with an English version), which serve to bring the viewer closer to Kubin's life and work, but also to the world of his extraordinary imagination.

"His moving works bring to mind the oeuvre of some of Europe's greatest graphic artists, from Bosch and Dürer through Ensor and Munch," Prof. Jacek Purchla, the MCK's director, writes in the exhibition catalog. "Steeped in an aura of fear and phobia, Kubin's art offers a faithful echo of the Kafkaesque spirit of Central Europe on the threshold of the 20th century. For his Europe was not only ripe with imagination-it also oozed trauma and ambivalence. Kubin's schizophrenic visions certainly enrich his imagination and prompt profound reflection."

The MCK exhibition presents works from the artist's earliest output right up to the final years of his life, showing the most important stages of Kubin's visual art in chronological order. The works are from the world's largest collection of his art in Linz. The exhibition was prepared in association with the Oberösterreichische Landesmuseen and the Austrian Consulate General in Cracow.

The bilingual, beautiful picture album with texts by Peter Hassman and Jan Gondowicz is also well worth recommending.

Cracow, International Cultural Center Gallery (www.mck.krakow.pl), 25 Rynek Główny, until Jan. 27
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