Curated by Maria Brewinska
Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
10 March – 13 May 2012
The exhibition deals with the relations between contemporary sculpture and modernism: a concept here understood as the striving towards modernity observable in art from the 1910s to the 1970s. The common denominator for the sculptures selected at the exhibition is their reference to such modernist tendencies as the rejection of ornamentation in the name of a simplification and purity of forms and constructions, as well as a concentration on the value of material and the function of an object. The underlying conceptions of modernism have long been of interest to artistic circles on account not just of their historical import, but also on account of a sense of a still untapped potential. Modernism has a huge influence over current art and, even though it is a historical phenomenon, for many it remains a live one. Artists submit it to revision, transform it, enter into dialogue with it or simply draw inspiration from its formal language.
Particularly over recent years, the debate about modernism has taken a new turn. The founding principles of modernity have captured the attention of researchers, architects, and critics, who have ventured to explore it in academic papers and critical reflection. Starting from the supposition that the beginning of the 21st century saw the end of postmodernism, they set out to identify its potential successor. Some, like Nicolas Bourriaud, pronounced the birth of a new strain of modernism – altermodernism, that stems from the specific character of the current global changes to which artists react. Others, like Martin Herbert in his essay on New Modernism, emphasise the continuity of tradition and the continued existence of art’s formal language along principles largely similar to those of modernism.
This exhibition New Sculpture? focuses on the latter of the two phenomena described above, in other words to the concept of New Modernism. The sculptures, objects and installations here serve as a pretext for an investigation into artistic reactions to the traditions of modernism, such as classic modernist design, comparing the old and the new and identifying points of interaction. The exhibition poses a question about the form of new sculpture and the language employed by artists. Is it the same formal language, or has it perhaps been modified in response to contemporary artistic phenomena and individual practices? What is it that attracts artists to modernism, and how do they draw on this tradition? The exhibition not only focuses on highlighting affinities and identifying a familiar language in contemporary practices; rather, it also seeks to demonstrate how this very language is being transformed and challenged, and the ways in which its forms are differentiated in contemporary sculpture.
Each of the artists participating in the exhibition approaches the modernist tradition and its paradigms from a different perspective. Martin Boyce does so by a persistent use of forms that reference the cubist concrete trees of the Martel brothers from 1925, and reinstating modernist art with its objects; Thea Djordjadze, whose approach to modernism is critical, transforms its formal language and combines it with elements of her own culture; Kasia Fudakowski develops personal, intimate sculptures informed by modernist aesthetics; Jerzy Goliszewski draws on art which follows certain systems; Wade Guyton’s practice provides an ironic commentary on the theme of the classical language of modernism; Mai-Thu Perret creates a utopia while referring to the Russian avant-garde and the emergence of communes in the 1960s; Monika Sosnowska consistently works through the architectural heritage of the People’s Republic of Poland; while Tatiana Trouvé constructs total installations, markedly apocalyptic in tone.