New Exhibitions in Cracow
March 3, 2014
Visual poems by Polish Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska, and pictures documenting the lives of refugees by Norwegian photographer Rune Eraker are among pieces on show in four new exhibitions at the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Cracow.
Poet Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012), the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, was best known for her poems and essays, but she also had a talent for putting together collages. The latter are on show in the Kolaże (Collages) exhibition, which marks the second anniversary of Szymborska’s death. The pieces give a broader picture of the poet’s output. Items on show include almost 300 postcards Szymborska designed especially for her friends. The minimalist compositions use images and words that Szymborska put together in search of new and unexpected meanings, creating terse visual poems in the process.
Sculptor, painter and set designer Władysław Hasior (1928-1999) was one of Poland’s greatest artists of the second half of the 20th century. Hasior refused to stick to conventional means of artistic expression and his distinctive work defied artistic canons. He combined sculpture, painting and tapestry into a new and easily recognizable kind of art. An exhibition at the Cracow museum entitled Władysław Hasior. The European Rauschenberg? comprises around 100 pieces dating from 1956 to 1986 that reflect his personal philosophy. Hasior used a wide range of symbols that he borrowed from religion, nature, technology and everyday life. On many occasions, he deliberately incorporated kitsch into his work. His trademark were three-dimensional compositions made of independent objects.
The exhibition title provocatively compares Hasior’s work to that of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950s. His work is regarded as a transition from abstract expressionism to the media-saturated surfaces of pop art. Rauschenberg and Hasior were not familiar with each other’s work, but what they had in common was that they incorporated found objects, or “symbolic trash,” into projects whose meaning depended on different historical and social determinants. Along with Hasior’s work, audiences in Cracow can see newsreels from the 1960s and clips from documentaries about Hasior.
Uprooted, an exhibition of photographs by Norway’s Rune Eraker, marks the first time politically engaged photography is being displayed at the MOCAK museum. Eraker has been a freelance documentary photographer for more than two decades and he currently heads the editorial team of the Norwegian Journal of Photography. The Cracow exhibition comprises 73 black-and-white photographs forming a collection entitled The Smell of Longing. The earliest pieces in the collection were taken in 1988. They document Eraker’s visits to 22 countries whose inhabitants have been tormented by wars, political repression and famine. The photographs explore the reasons why people are forced to abandon their homelands and seek refuge in foreign countries.
The photographs come with Eraker’s commentary and his personal accounts from conflict-stricken regions. Until April 13, the MOCAK museum is also showing work by six students of the Łódź Film School who attended photography workshops conducted by Eraker.
Another exhibition at the Cracow museum, The Whole World in Tiny Pictures, features a collection of over 2,000 miniature watercolor paintings by Anna Dawidowicz (1918-2007). The only daughter of avant-garde Polish painter Leon Chwistek, Dawidowicz was a mathematician who worked at the Cracow University of Technology for many years. Painting was her hobby since her childhood, but she did not start to paint miniatures until she retired in the 1980s. Rather than sell her work, she gave the pictures away to her friends and family. She painted around 20 miniatures a week, depicting famous places, landscapes, saints and ordinary people. She took many themes from photographs, newspapers and coffee-table books on art. Through her pictures, Dawidowicz wanted to capture fragments of life that she found interesting, which is why she usually worked quickly and spontaneously.
Wisława Szymborska, Kolaże, Until April 13
Władysław Hasior. The European Rauschenberg?, Until April 27
Rune Eraker, Uprooted, Until April 27
Alina Dawidowicz, The Whole World in Small Pictures, Until April 13
MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art
4 Lipowa St., Cracow.