Born in 1932, the twin sisters and individualities on the Polish art scene of the 1960s and 1970s began their careers right after the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, which they started in 1952 and completed in 1957. They studied painting in the studio of Prof. Eugeniusz Eibisch. Alicja also received a diploma annex in ceramics from the studio of Prof. Wanda Golakowska in 1958. They formed part of the milieu around the Krzywe Koło Gallery in Warsaw, where they debuted in 1961. They frequently exhibited together, also outside Poland – in France, Germany, the United States. In 1979, they founded a gallery in a house in Warsaw’s district of Żoliborz, which was mainly run by Alicja. The A. B. Wahl Gallery specialised in art originating from the Surrealist tradition, to which the sisters were no strangers themselves.
Their pieces from the previous years were highly homogeneous, almost impossible to distinguish. An evolution started at the beginning of the 1970s. Alicja turned out to be more of a colourist, Bożena made use of darker shades of ink. Lines drawn by Alicja became softer, whereas those by Bożena – fiercer. Still, their practices had a lot in common, abounding in personal references, encounters, confrontations. This could be seen on paper, but also in real life, as Alicja’s daughter and granddaughter remember. Tied together with the thread of a shared biography, artistic and social activity, the sisters began to take separate directions.
A significant motif that came to the fore in their work from the 1970s was female sexuality. Working in Poland, isolated under communism, with no access to writings by theorists, critics and philosophers of second-wave feminism, the two artists addressed this sphere in a unique and intuitive way. The 1968 sexual revolution became genuinely embodied in their pieces, especially those by Alicja, whose erotic fantasy seems boundless.
Forgotten Heritage: Alicja Wahl & Bożena Wahl