- an extraordinary sculptor.
Wladyslaw Hasior, who had died few years ago, was both an artist and a
person fascinated by the provincial, church fete material culture. He
belongs to a group of artists who had been abandoned by Polish culture
about two decades ago. The value of his works has been called into question
when some pointed at Hasior's sculptures in which the legend of people's
power lived on. Perceived as an artist from the "ancien regime",
a star peculiar to the art of Polish People's Republic. He slid (was put
in fact) into the shade on the Polish art scene. That simple, or rather
simplistic, histo-cultural mechanism had worked perfectly for yet another
time, causing a factual harm. As Hasior, and his, to some point insane,
works deserve to be treated absolutely seriously nowadays. The label of
a dusty museum relic is somewhat too trivial while referring to works
that have had shaped the Polish landscape (both mental as well as physical)
with verve and imagination. Apart from numerous, though not necessarily
displayed, works in museums (we recommend Zakopane and Wroclaw) Hasior
left a number of works in public space, primarily monuments. Ranging from
plain stone works (like the monument of the Tatry Mountain Rescue Team
in Zakopane), to impressive sculptures incorporating water and wind (monuments
in Kuznice and Czorsztyn), to experimental forms like Monument of the
Shot Hostages in Wroclaw - cast in concrete in moulds dug directly in
the ground and then set on fire. Fire was also the favorite element used
by the artist in his "processions" and other, ephemeral, projects
in public space. It was also fire that had appeared in Szczcin in 1975,
when on the slopes surrounding the castle Hasior "unveiled"
his new work "Firebirds". This impressive and prodigious installation
made of iron and sheet metal remained in Szczecin for good. After a few
moves in the 90's it eventually landed in Kasprowicz park on the outskirts
of city center. That was the moment when its slow but gradual degeneration
trouble is Wroclaw's concern.
Its current condition was described in detail by Mrs. Malgorzata Jablonska
- the Artwork Conservationist in Szczecin - in an interview she gave for
Gazeta Wyborcza: "Six birds and two minor linking elements are missing".
In the meantime, one of the "firebirds" appeared in the courtyard
of BWA gallery in Wroclaw. Here, the official opening of the project entitled
"A fragment of W. Hasior's sculpture...", prepared by Andrzej
K. Urbanski and Jerzy Kosalka will take place in mid-October. This very
fragment comes from Andrzej Kukorowski, painter living in Szczecin. Few
years ago, he had recovered two fallen "firebirds" from a puddle
of mud in the park and brought them to his studio in a tenement house.
One of them was eventually stolen, the second was taken to Wroclaw by
Urbanski. Here, the tin bird was fixed to a 3,5 meter high pipe, and two
armchairs put on the ground nearby. In authors' commentary, the artists
state their intention: "In the course of two year long move of the
sculpture, [Szczecin] city authorities nid not bother to properly secure
it and let it lay in a muddy pit unattended. The effect of this negligence
was such that the sculpture has been vandalized, and now stands incomplete
[...] Authorities had shown no interest when the found pieces were presented
to them. Unfortunately, this lack of interest entailed a risk of a total
destruction of the left elements [...] The project [in Wroclaw] was meant
to be a gesture, an attempt to relocate a work, that had been demoted
to junk status, back to the artistic space." Meanwhile, the Conservationist,
who had been informed of the whole event by Gazeta Wyborcza, described
the situation in short words: "It is a theft, by all means".
Wroclaw artists assure that as soon as Szczecin claims its bird and agrees
to provide proper care, they shall return the taken piece. The situation
is spiced up with the fact that the project consisting of pieces of Hasior's
work has gained support of Wroclaw City Council. In addition, the Council
has allocated some funds for conservation of the Monument of the Shot
Hostages, which is currently in (poor) care of the Architecture Museum
- until not long a go one of the figures had been lying on the lawn.
And so, the artistic kidnapping of the Szczecin bird may - though doesn't
necessarily has to - have solely good consequences - congratulations to
artists from Wroclaw on an undertaking marked by unusual awareness and
expressing concern for Hasior!). The issue, eagerly discussed by local
department of "Gazeta Wyborcza", has already reached the
Conservationist's as well as Szczecin City Council Office. It would be
logical for those officials to agree on prompt conservation of the devastated
work of Hasior. Recently, thanks to a public money collection, the gathered
funds made possible the triumphant return of a XIX cent. replica of Colleoni's
sculpture, which had been standing in the courtyard of Warsaw Fine Arts
Academy. It is even said that the money is in surplus - just right to
take care of equally charming XX century monument. Regrettably, the question
of how to successfully preserve such works in public space, in a society
suffering from poverty and crime, is a totally different issue. How to
explain - to ourselves, as well as to officials and politicians - that
a modern sculpture in a park deserves respect and attention. In the meantime,
instead of taking care of what has been build not so long ago, there is
a rush for novelty in the country - more and more teams of politicians
aim at building new sculptures "in memory of". Symptomatic of
this situation is the fact that a work similar to "Firebirds",
namely Hasior's composition in Koszalin, enjoys a good health, for the
simple reason that it is such a monument ("To those who fought for
the Polish character and freedom of the Pomerania region"). As you
can see, the worst thing that could happen to you if you were to be born
an artpiece is being an abstract composition.
- the untapped potential
Modern sculptures, monumental metal forms placed in city space or in parks
park are, just like electricity poles, a perfect target for the junk collectors.
A few years ago in Elblag those people looted a large part of the famous
piece by Henryk Morel, which overlooks the city from a nearby hill. It is
one of a few dozen of works made within the framework of the Biennial of
Spatial Forms, held in Elblag in the 60's. In many ways this event was pioneering
on a global scale, what is more, it all resembled a utopia that came true.
The Biennial was realized under the patronage of ZAMECH, the local industrial
plant, and artists had worked along with plant workers building their works
from scrap material. In the center of Elblag one can still see numerous
modern sculptures by leading Polish artists of the 60's. Their condition
is fairly good - obviously they are being repainted every now and then.
Yet for the time being, not only junk-collectors but Elblag officials as
well, may call this situation "the untapped potential". While
this unique collection could be easily turned into both tourist and artistic
attraction. And the effort is nominal: to prepare a comprehensive catalogue
(each year, about a hundred young people graduate in Art History in Poland),
print leaflets and town maps including itinerary, and conserve the sculptures.
One could organize a special art project and invite contemporary artists
to dust the beautiful, modernist Elblag utopia.
- a decayed museum and decaying unism
And now instead of theorizing, let us take a quick look at Lodz, namely
the local Art Museum. This place hides one of the most precious treasures
of our art - a magnificent collection of paintings by Wladyslaw Strzeminski.
One day, when I took a yet another stroll in the corridors where the permanent
collection is located, and as I was having yet another look at one of Strzeminski's
"unistic compositions", I noticed a small splash of paint. A tiny,
though important, piece of paint in the shape of an oval was missing. On
the painting, in place of the oval a piece of canvas was showing through.
Instinctively I looked at the floor and - indeed - the oval piece had fallen
down and broke into pieces. Apparently the damage was quite recent. I took
the fragments and placed them on the frame of the painting. Next, I paid
a visit to the museum office and reported on that sad accident to one of
the curators. My complaint had been received with proper attention. More
or less a year had passed since my next visit to the museum. When I went
there and stood in front of the unfortunate painting I didn't notice the
piece of paint I had left on the frame anymore - yet the empty spot on the
painting remained unchanged. And now the question - how on earth one can
expect hooligans, politicians or officials to look after works of modern
art, if those who are educated, elected and duty bound to it apparently
cannot? The mentioned story happened a few years ago and - what we would
like to stress - may have had a happy end by now. We wish it were so!