Ukraine is involved in the world cultural process. Krzysztof Bednarski’s exhibit “The ghost is wandering” will last through October 23 at the National Academy of Art and Architecture of Ukraine. The entire exposition is focused on the connotations of development of sculptural topics of “The Group Portrait” and “Total Portrait of Karl Marx” from the 1970s until nowadays. The exhibit’s curator is contemporary art critic Achille Bonito Oliva, the curator of the Venice Biennale, legendary author of the term “transavantgarde” and researcher of contemporary artists, from Francesco Clemente to Jeff Koons.
Signore Oliva is a recognized critic of contemporary art and probably one of the most honored. He is a professor of History of Contemporary Art at La Sapienza University in Rome. He was a curator of thematic and interdisciplinary exhibits in Italy and abroad, including “Contemporanea,” “Aperto 80,” “Avanguardia transavanguardia,” “Arte e depressione,” “Minimalia”; a winner of several awards, including Valentino d’Oro, an international award for art critics.
“Krzysztof Bednarski comments with his sculptures on the situation in Poland and creates metaphors for the society’s political views,” exhibit’s curator Achille Bonito OLIVA underlined. “Marx created by Bednarski is a subject to constant reinterpretation, depending on the cultural and political milieu. When I look at his works, I start pondering over the political responsibility: mine, yours, everyone’s own. For Krzysztof this question is topical, too. This contemplation corrects and measures the critical distance concerning art, which is always politically biased, in one way or another.”
Achille Bonito Olive delivered a lecture on contemporary art at Kyiv’s National Museum of Art. He spoke about art after 2000, in particularly, about Postmodernism, a transition period, during which different dialogues developed, and the crisis of humanitarian sciences and economic crisis broke out. But there was also a great euphoria of the world, which in the 1980s experienced the time of total freedom. There is no doubt, falling of the Berlin Wall was a great holiday.
Oliva spoke about transavantgarde as about a “liberating art, which has no restrictions, i.e., the art which is even spoiled in some ways, which is ready for everything, including a dialogue with the artists representing abstractionism and other artistic streams, up to polychrome. After the political ‘orgy’ of the 1960s and famous 1968, artists felt punished, politics was reigning everywhere. Then, when the crisis of Marxism and other movements took place, they started to overcome the dogmatic vision of art. So after this liberation, represented by transavantgarde, we started to advance towards the end of the 20th century. But we remain within the framework of Postmodernism, the thing, which is called ‘the end of big metanarratives’ and what I call ‘trans-avant-garde.’
“And in the 1990s the principles of transavantgarde started to be applied with the help of objects, installation, and mixture of architecture, painting, and sculpture. For example, it is Jeff Koons in America, Dimitrijevic in Croatia, and many other artists, who transfer the main point by using what I call a totality of objects, routine objects. Simultaneously to loss of ideology, eroticism is spread, which entails decline of morality. Later, the traumatic event of September 11, 2001 produced a shock, which shook the entire system of art!”
What is the main function of art today? The art critic thinks it is “to produce, create new cognition processes, exalt the subjectivity of the audience, mix, and create interactivity, and the most important thing – to massage the atrophied muscles of collective mind.” The basis of Krzysztof Bednarski’s exhibit “The ghost is wandering” is development of the sculptural topics of “Total Portrait of Karl Marx” and “Group Portrait.” At the exhibit at the National Academy of Art of Ukraine the artist combines the criticism of ideology and criticism of subjugated society of Poland.
“We are glad to present in Kyiv one of the most interesting present-day Polish artists,” said Head of Polish Institute in Kyiv Jaroslaw GODUN, “You can see 16 works at the exhibit and three video projections. Bednarski’s creative work is the best manifestation of Polish culture, which tends to highlight important political topics with the help of a sense of humor. Krzysztof Bednarski started his artistic career at the end of the 1980s. At the time the Solidarity movement was gaining momentum, which led to democratic changes, and Polish culture was always ahead of changes.”
So, interactivity of Bednarski’s works was convincingly traced in the installation Marxs for sale,1999, when sculptures of Marx heads of various colors were displayed in the window of fashionable clothes store Fendissime under the sign “Sale.” At the moment, works in the series “Total Portrait of Karl Marx” are stored in the collections and museums of Poland, Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, etc.
Merely over 35 years Bednarski has created several hundreds of sculptures of Marx’s head from epoxy resin, aluminum, and bronze. Irony, provocation, and multivalence as a call to dialogue with the audience are a common feature for all of his works. So, the “green Marx head” supports the rights of the “greens,” the rosy five-meter phallic column of heads was displayed in Budapest’s central park, and according to the sculptor’s idea is called to help the Hungarians overcome the stress from memories about the uprising against the Communist regime in 1956 and its cruel suppression by Soviet forces. The column – a jolly bright fountain – allows one to look with a smile at Karl Marx, who is associated with the Soviet regime. He is not fearful anymore, he is funny. Another sculptural composition is presented at the Wroclaw National Museum. It is called A Poultry-Yard: holes were made in the Marx heads, so that birds could nest inside.
It will be reminded that Krzysztof Bednarski was born in 1953 in Krakow. In 1978 he graduated from the Academy of Visual Arts in Warsaw (Professor Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz and Professor Oskar Hansen’s studio). He has been actively worked in various artistic spheres, in his time he was closely connected with Jerzy Grotowski’s theater, for which he designed posters in 1976-81. Since 1986 he has been residing in Rome, but his presence becomes tremendous on Polish artistic stage. The master’s works referred to Communist propaganda (“Karl Marx’s Total Portrait,” 1978) and socio-political situation in Poland in the time of martial law (Victoria Victoria, 1983, currently stored at the National Museum in Krakow).
His most famous work is sculptural installation Moby Dick, 1987 (currently part of the collection of the ms2 section, Museum of Art in Lodz, it is a kind of an icon of Polish sculpture of the last two decades of the 20th century). He authors the grave monument to Krzysztof Kieslowski (Warsaw, 1997), monument Meeting Federico Fellini (1994), monument to Frederic Chopin La Note Bleue (Wienna, 2010). He participated in several hundreds of group exhibitions. He is a laureate of Katarzyna Kobro Award, 2004, and 2012 Poland’s Golden Owls in Vienna.
The exhibit and lectures in Kyiv are held with the support of the National Academy of Art of Ukraine, Polish Institute in Kyiv, Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine, and the National Academy of Art and Architecture.