lokal_30 at Frieze New York 2018 with Natalia LL, Maria Anto and Ewa Juszkiewicz
lokal_30 at Frieze New York 2018
preview: 2–3 May 2018
public: 4–6 May 2018
NATALIA LL, MARIA ANTO AND EWA JUSZKIEWICZ
The presentation by Maria Anto, Natalia LL and Ewa Juszkiewicz highlights Surrealist motifs in the work of these artists. We aim to refute the claim about marginal role of Surrealism in Polish art.
Post-war Polish surrealism was created by personalities who shaped their world vision without affiliation with groups or movements. As it was the case internationally after WWI, surrealism after 1945 also functioned as a buffer zone to act out the horrors and escape everyday life under Socialism.
Maria Anto’s (1936-2007) work represents the tradition of Surrealism, metaphorical painting and naïve art – she was often compared to Henri Rousseau, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and René Magritte. Anto despised being classified as a Surrealist or fantastical painter – she emphasized her individualism. A representative of figuration in art, she developed her own individual language of painting. The artist created portraits, landscapes, and images of animals and fantastical creatures. Her painting was defined as metaphorical, fantastical, symbolic, poetic, representative of magical realism, while displaying a kinship with naïve art, the Quattrocento, and surrealism. The artist herself attached the most importance to literary inspirations. Anto was a major figure in the Polish art world for several decades. A major development, vital to the success of the Polish artist, was her long-term collaboration with the Galleria Cortina in Milan. It was preceded by a visit paid to her studio by an Italian delegation comprising the gallerist Renzo Cortina and the writer and journalist Dino Buzzati. Anto’s individual exhibition at the Galleria Cortina in 1971 enjoyed considerable interest, while the artist herself recognised it as the most important show in her career. The young Polish painter makes a landmark as one of the most extraordinary and original personalities in the field of fantastical art. A true revelation, wrote Dino Buzzati in his review of the exhibition for Corriere della Sera.
The most renowned works by Natalia LL (1937), Consumer Art and Postconsumer Art present models delighting in bananas, frankfurters or pudding. Obviously, this seemingly innocent activity acquires a strongly erotic edge. Combination of a “cold” film recording with a “hot” sensual motif stands for a rejection of the purely analytical character of conceptual art. Natalia LL’s work has invited many feminist interpretations, which underlined the presence of the problems of sexuality and eroticism contradicting the status quo of social and cultural patriarchal structures. The artist’s works from the 1970s feature the themes of confrontation with male viewer, objection to ”phallic structures” and the issues of shaping female identity against tradition by means of taking over social, cultural and political activity – represented by the image of a woman who takes the sway and active position in eroticism. In the 1970s in Poland, it was significant not only from the individual perspective, but also the social and the political. The visualization of satisfying sexual needs by a woman and equal rights in the domain of sex were received as somewhat of pornography, with the artist’s exhibitions censored and no public displays allowed. Although Natalia LL’s work is not associated with Surrealism, it frequently features Surrealist and post-Dadaist motifs. Consumer Art can be interpreted as a subversive mockery of Polish “consumerism” in the 1970s, when a mere frankfurter was a dream come true. What is more, the fetishization of certain products relates to its status under communism as an extremely rare and luxurious commodity. Given the deficit of goods, the work’s advertising strategy and aesthetics – a model passionately licking bananas, sausages and salted sticks – appears as a kind of comic Surrealism.
These two classics are juxtaposed with the young painter Ewa Juszkiewicz (1984), thus demonstrating the continuity of Polish Surrealist tradition. Juszkiewicz borrows from this legacy, although she is obviously a contemporary artist. Her works challenge the portrait tradition by re-interpreting female portraits known from art history. Based on the classical works of eminent representatives of European painting, among others Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Caravaggio or Sir Joshua Reynolds she deconstructs well-known images, creating new values. Through her works, she refers in a critical way to the place of a woman in art history and the ways in which they were presented. She builds her own herstory, her private collection of images. In her recent cycle of paintings she takes on sculpture as an object of her painterly deconstruction, but the starting point for her paintings are the collages on paper, made from excerpts and plates from old books: albums about museums and art collections, vintage botanical and entomological atlases. The artist is employing a double appropriation – inspired by various media, the structure of images seems heterogeneous, resembling a collage rather than a painting. She replaces the ideal with the natural, as well as the classical and canonical with the sensual and emotional. Talking about her artistic practice, Juszkiewicz says: The dialectic between creation and destruction is always present in my work. My creative method is based on transformation and reconstruction. The gestures I use to transform historic images are the tools to break the uniform, the conservative visual conventions they represent. Covering, processing or erasing an image is intended to unmask the appearance.