July 15, 2020

It’s been a while.

Yorgos Giotsas exhibition in Siros.

Solo show @ Cyclades Pinacotheque in Syros
“Concrete Journeys”
Curator : Marek Bartelik
Coordinator : Γιωργος Αλτουβας
Catalogue designed, printed and published by Peritechnon Karteris & Rallou Karteris.
Thank you all for your kind support and the great collaboration.!

Here is the essay from the catalogue:

Shades and Shadows,

Fire and Light

an oceanic abyss of orange dream

–E.E. Cummings

Heavy, rough and hardened cement serves as the primary material for Yorgos Giostas’s large sculptural reliefs presented in this show. But, in reality to make them the artist begins with dust, which he mixes with water and, then, combines with Styrofoam, marble powder, paper pulp, resin, glue, iron, small stones and sand. His creative process is time-consuming, involving resurfacing, burning, soiling and painting over, as well as allowing the work to “age” and deteriorate by letting nature — rain or shine — act upon it without the artist’s assistance. This is not all. For Giostas’s works to be finished they must be put aside, sometimes dismantled, rebuilt, and reclaimed as if being excavated. Only then is the final artwork done, looking finished and muddied-up.

Behind the motionless surfaces with “a turbulence of forms” of Giostas’s work reside memories, both voluntary and involuntary. These are the personal stories from his childhood and youth in Greece, a homeland of thousands of islands that saw its “E.U. economic miracle” end some ten years ago, exposing the gaping holes in the streets of his native Athens and other Greek towns as never before. Travels abroad, which he started as a high school student by going to the U.K. in the mid-1990s, have enriched his experience as well, and have given the feel of a private journal to his art. Since that UK trip he has visited many places, but it seems that none of them marked him as much as his trips to the island of New York City, the first of these in 2016 and the last in the fall of 2019.

New York is a metropolis where concrete provides the stable ground underfoot and the roof overhead. Both the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and parts of the Brooklyn Bridge were built with natural cement. It is a city that proverbially “never sleeps” — unfortunately even more so after the Covid-19 pandemic struck it with such force. Like many travelers before him, Giostas found New York generously open to strangers, while granting him complete anonymity. And like many travelers he was also struck by the poor condition of the local infrastructure: roads, buildings, airports and bridges. However, that observation only refueled his interest in the fleeting aspect of our physical and social environment, which had been one of the reasons that he had started to make art in the first place. Finding himself in this intense urban environment (modern ruins of a sort) full of the imprints left daily by our post-capitalist civilization, Giostas was particularly driven toward those things that are perishable, ephemeral and often dreary: a pile of garbage, a damaged wall covered with graffiti, cracks in the sidewalk, a cardboard house in which a homeless person lives. Such a city has nourished his imagination with its shifting palimpsest of creation and destruction, richness and misery, openness and sorrow as no other place had. In fact, it might be New York that added the sharp, broken edges to his reliefs, which are present there metaphorically and physically.

Many of Giostas’s works are based on photographs he took during his trips. They are the snapshots of actual reality. When using these in the studio, he usually begins by focusing on a detail from one of them. The process of zooming in on a small area of a shot brings attention to a specific motif and, at the same time, creates a distance from the original image that allows him to allude to broader issues. For example, a hole in the ground is a mark of specific physical damage, but also brings to mind the thought of people hiding or trapped in it. The pile of garbage on the street captured in his photograph looks like a still life — of the Vanitas type, which speaks of gluttonous consumption and its consequences. The abandoned piece of plastic reveals the presence of waste that cannot be gotten rid of, ever, but also of the persistence of time beyond our existence. There are other sensual found objects and subjects that remind him of social injustice, corrosion, and bliss. As he emphatically points out, his saunters through New York have allowed him to tackle issues that go beyond aesthetic concerns — from existential to environmental, from mystic to political. If fact, the urge to address those larger concerns is the invisible glue that connects all of his work in this exhibition, allowing him to speak about the world we live in a highly emotional and visceral manner.

When I perform my own excavation while looking at the art in this show Giostas’s working process reminds me of bricolage. Its original French meaning denotes improvisation during any activity. It also means construction using a diverse range of materials on hand. The word took on a more specific significance when used by the anthropologist Claude Lévy-Strauss in La Pensée sauvage (The Savage Mind), in which it means the “mythological thought” that leads one to reuse available materials to create new patterns and endow them with new meanings. Such reusing is circular, repetitive and meditative rather than linear and rational, a manner of thinking that the Structuralist associates with the scientific mind of an engineer, who proceeds by setting a practical goal and realizing it. Without completely succumbing to “theoreticism,” I might argue — after Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari — that the bricoleur employs the creative strategy of the “schizophrenic producer.” Of course, nowadays we could also speak of “social media bricolage” and “information bricolage”, even “coronavirus bricolage”, and see them as indicative of the way we interact and communicate; and these issues resonate in Giostas’s work as well. But the “mythological thought” precedes even the ancient ruins and Giostas is fully aware of that fact. Thus, his bricolage stands above all for rejecting the notions of progress and permanence and choosing instead adventure and inconclusiveness.

The second concept that comes to my mind when I look at Giostas’s works is one represented by Robert Smithson’s “non-sites” series, which the American artist thought of as “monuments of antiquity” — our antiquity, of course. To make these, Smithson collected rocks, gravel, and minerals from mines and quarries and placed them in steel boxes arranged in sequential formations on the floor. In contrast, Giostas’s “containers” are heavily worked upon before they reach the exhibition space, usually as wall pieces. Those are major differences. Yet the Greek artist, like Smithson, emphasizes displacement from the original site — double displacement, in fact: firstly as a photographic record, and secondly as an artistic transformation in which the original materials assume the function of a dopplegänger that resembles the real and yet is totally independent. This is reminiscent of the situation in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Despair, in which the homeless “double” in fact looks so different from the rich man who murders him to fake his own death that the two cannot be confused, and thus the murderer is quickly apprehended. Enacting a parallel dramatic split between nature and culture Giostas communicates yearning (and lust) for direct contact with the latter, and the forces behind it, which our modern experience increasingly separates us from.

Although natural forms are not directly featured in Giostas’s works, their presence is evident to me. Some of his pieces look like natural rocks with orange oxidation and organic growths, the type one finds in abundance in the Greek countryside. And like nature, his art constantly rebuilds itself. In fact, looking at his reliefs causes me to recall a pile of giant volcanic rocks hanging over the garden of my house in the island of Aegina. The vertical stone formation seems menacing, as if it could tumble down on my Greek home below any minute, now of course with the new intensity triggered by the winds produced by the pandemic Covid-19, which make the world terribly unstable again. Facing the unknown, the pile of boulders above my house and Giostas’s works display the same combination of vulnerability and strength, sensuality and brutality, joy and sorrow, closeness and distance, liveliness and deadness, “too much” and “too little.” And, at the same time, they defy those polarities by exposing shades and shadows, merging fire with light.

Dr. Marek Bartelik

Aegina, June 2020

November 10, 2018

zaproszenie2August 9, 2014


December 25

Polityka,  17 grudnia 2013

Piotr Sarzyński,

2. „Od Cranacha do Picassa”. Kolekcja Santander w Muzeum Narodowym we Wrocławiu. Tegoroczny rekord frekwencyjny w polskim muzealnictwie – 85 tys. zwiedzających. W rankingu bankowych kolekcji sztuki to pewnie jakaś światowa druga dziesiątka. Ale jak na nasz kraj, to wystarczyło do osiągnięcia zawrotnego sukcesu.

3. Roberto Matta w Muzeum Narodowym w Krakowie. Kolejny, choć mniej znany od Rothki, klasyk współczesnej sztuki. Zamiast kontemplacji, szalony, biomorficzny surrealizm.

4. „Splendor tkaniny” w stołecznej Zachęcie. 70 lat polskiej tkaniny artystycznej w jednym miejscu. Pomysł śmiały, wysiłek duży i efekt wyśmienity.

5. „W sercu kraju”. Prezentacja zbiorów Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie. Argument, że tej bezdomnej placówce stała siedziba się należy. Dla artystycznych przeciwników z kolei dowód na tezę wręcz przeciwną.

6. Retrospektywa Magdaleny Abakanowicz w Centrum Rzeźby Polskiej w Orońsku. Pierwsza po blisko 20 latach wielka krajowa wystawa naszej wybitnej rzeźbiarki. Mody i trendy w sztuce się zmieniają, a dzieło artystki nic nie traci na wadze.

7. „Polish Polish British British” w CSW Zamek Ujazdowski w Warszawie. Intrygująca konfrontacja dwóch artystycznych formacji: Young British Artists i Polskiej Szkoły Krytycznej.

8. Rodzina Brueglów w Pałacu Królewskim we Wrocławiu. Znowu Wrocław i znowu wielki sukces frekwencyjny – 75 tys. zwiedzających. Triumf tym większy, że bilety były drogie (normalny – 40 zł), a ekspozycja bez prac najważniejszego członka rodziny – Pietera Bruegla.

9. Festiwal Urban Forms w Łodzi. Prawdziwy fenomen promocji sztuki w przestrzeni publicznej, a szczególnie jednej jej formy: wielkich murali. 30 wielkoformatowych prac i zainteresowanie mediów z całego świata, z Huffington Post i ABC News na czele.

10. Wystawa Teresy Tyszkiewiczowej w Atlasie Sztuki. Wzorcowa monograficzna wystawa średniobudżetowa wydobyła z niejakiego zapomnienia ważną artystkę.



June 6

Rothko's books

Mark Rothko w Warszawie

Środa, 5 czerwca (15:02)

Takie wystawy w Polsce zdarzają się bardzo rzadko. Od piątku w warszawskim Muzeum Narodowym będzie można oglądać 17 obrazów Marka Rothki – jednego z najwybitniejszych malarzy XX wieku.

Prace tego artysty będą po raz pierwszy prezentowane w naszym kraju. Przyjechały do nas z Narodowej Galerii Sztuki w Waszyngtonie.

Mark Rothko zaliczany jest do twórców nurtu color field painting, czyli malarstwa barwnych płaszczyzn. Kierunek ten wiązany jest z ekspresjonizmem abstrakcyjnym. Prace Rothki osiągają astronomiczne ceny. W ubiegłym roku jedną z nich sprzedano za 87 milionów dolarów. Jest to najwyższa kwota, jaką zapłacono na aukcjach za obraz powstały po 1945 roku.

Ekspozycja w Muzeum Narodowym obejmuje wszystkie okresy twórczości artysty – od wczesnych obrazów realistycznych po abstracyjne wieloformy. Kurator wystawy Marek Bartelik podkreśla, że siła malarstwa Marka Rothki nie podlega wyłącznie na kolorze, mimo że jest on bardzo ważny, ale na swietle.

Dyrektor Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie Agnieszka Morawińska podkreśla, że malarstwo artysty jest niezwykle wyrafinowane. Można je porównać między innymi do muzyki.

Wystawę zamyka ekspozycja 4 zdjęć Nicolasa Grospierra, który pojechał do miasta urodzenia Rothki Dźwińska – dawniej Dyneburga, a obecnie Daugavpils na Łotwie.

Prace Marka Rothki będzie można oglądać do 1 września.

May 29, 2013

Curated by Marek Bartelik

wernisaz copy

August 22

from Artdaily.org

Turning heads in Red Bank, New Jersey The paintings are installed on exterior walls in this historic town along the Navesink River RED BANK, NJ.- New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art opened its public art exhibition “HEADS” featuring 50 large-scale paintings by Romanian artist Dumitru Gorzo in Red Bank, New Jersey. The paintings are installed on exterior walls in this historic town along the Navesink River and will be on view through October 14, 2012. A map of the 9 locations is available on the museum’s website. Curated by the distinguished art critic, Marek Bartelik, the series of 4’ x 8’ paintings commissioned exclusively for this exhibition focuses on expressive, allegorical, strange, satirical, and futuristic heads that explore portraiture with a nuanced observation of the individual spirit. The concentration on heads grounds the work in a universal feature of humanity, with eyes being the proverbial window to the soul. Gorzo’s incorporation of varied styles and layers of abstraction illuminate the struggles resounding today for people throughout the world in a fight for human rights and freedom of expression. The paintings unite to create a vibrant tableau intended to draw in the viewer and stimulate conversation with imagery that alternates between fantasy and reality. Some heads are informed by classical antiquity, some by the bright colors and strong brushstrokes inherent in Expressionism, some reflections of the artist’s childhood memories in Romania, some eliciting angst, some adventurous —all of them evocative through the artist’s subjective interpretation for emotional effect. The works are at once thoughtful, mischievous, deliberate, structural, radical, and exuberant. The colorful palette belies the artist’s serious challenge to provoke discourse about the universality of the human experience from both the art critics and the uninitiated public at large, straddling a delicate tightrope between academic conceit and sentimentality to effect sanction from two disparate worlds of thought. In the setting of a public art exhibition, Gorzo achieves this demanding act with aplomb. Of special note is the K-12 companion curriculum with suggested studio lessons available for educators, also on the museum’s website. In an economic environment where arts in education is being slashed, NJMoCA’s public art exhibition provides a compelling art field trip with an unprecedented enrichment program that are both free of charge and accessible at the scheduling convenience of public and private schools throughout the state. This is the first time in New Jersey that a landmark exhibition is being museum curated in a public setting outside museum gallery walls — a scholarly and provocative cultural experience that is free, open 24 hours a day, and accessible to everyone. “HEADS” is equally important in its timeliness in the face of current world events, as it may be one of the last exhibitions in the United States to receive support from the Romanian Cultural Institute. On June 13, newly elected Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta passed an emergency order that would restructure the mission and management of the Romanian Cultural Institute and its 17 international branches. There has been an outcry heard around the world from thousands of Romanian artists and other cultural organizations like New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art who are affected by the diktat. Norman Manea, a prominent Jewish Romanian writer and literature professor at Bard College, suggests, “It would be disastrous if the brutal practices and the arrogance of past and present politicians came to nefariously guide the destiny of culture.” The contemporary art world has taken a strong interest in emerging artists from Romania in recent years, and importance in the United States is building momentum. True to the mission of this young organization to foster emerging artists from an international curatorial field, New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art identified Dumitru Gorzo, who has not had broad exposure outside of Romania and for whom this is the first museum exhibition in the United States.August 21

Latest Red Bank public art exhibition is sure to turn heads

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 8:00 AM

“HEADS” an outdoor public art exhibition in Red Bank, NJ.

RED BANK — Some of the heads are playful, some menacing. Some seem tribal, others futuristic.

They’re all arresting — and their vibrant colors and surprising shapes are hard to miss on the streets of Red Bank.

“Heads” is a public art exhibition of more than 50 four-by-eight-foot paintings by Romanian artist Dumitru Gorzo. Commissioned for the show, the paintings have been installed on the exteriors of historic and contemporary buildings in the arts-friendly Monmouth County town.

“Heads” is the brainchild of the New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art and aims to break down the barriers to contemporary art — often thought to be cerebral and difficult — by bringing it right to the people.

“When you go into a museum, maybe you’re intimidated,” said NJMOCA founder Robin Parness Lipson. “Here we have it out, right up close and personal.

“It’s a bit of a surprise, and that’s another layer of context,” she said of the show. “It makes you stop and consider and maybe smile. And that’s not such a bad thing,”

The brightly hued paintings are installed at nine locations, surprising pedestrians and motorists alike.

Six are lined up on the side wall of the Count Basie Theatre and four others have been hung on the brick columns between the dramatic windows of Two River Theater Company. More than a dozen are hanging on the brick walls of the Anderson Building, an old industrial structure near the train station.

Curator Marek Bartelik said the show intends to subvert the museum experience by transforming a passive event into an active one.

“The idea is it’s not contemplation, it’s a dynamic experience,” Bartelik said. “We tried to create a museum that has walls that face outside. It kind of incorporates all of the dynamics of the urban environment.”

Gorzo’s work is ideal for the show’s expansive setting, Bartelik said. The Romanian born, 30-something artist has worked as a street prankster, a studio artist, a sculptor, according to his NJMOCA biography. He was pleased when pieces in a public show in Bucharest were hit with graffiti because it meant the viewers wanted to interact with them, Bartelik said.

Gorzo’s paintings borrow elements of graffiti and street art, but they are more than just portraits, the curator said.

“He’s a very expressive artist, but also in way, an honest artist,” Bartelik said. “It’s not just an image, but an image loaded with emotion. They reveal something more essential about us, not just how we look, but how we feel and behave.”

Red Bank’s modern and historic architecture combine to create a rich backdrop for the paintings, Lipson said. Pedestrians have stopped to watch the pieces being installed, and have asked about the art and the artist.

“That engagement and dialogue, it’s what I hoped for, that the reward,” she said.

The exhibition is the second effort of the NJMOCA, a nonprofit corporation founded two years ago that wants to be the state’s sole institution devoted to contemporary art. Without a permanent space of its own, NJMOCA is focused on creating engaging and educational arts events.

“We don’t have our own walls yet, but someday we will,” Lipson said, adding that a building isn’t essential because the mission of the organization is not to collect art but to show it. “The nature of contemporary art is always new and innovative.”

Viewers can download a map from the museum website and stroll from the theaters to the library and past the riverfront park to take in the canvasses.

The website also provides curriculum for teachers to use in class.

The exhibition will be on view through Oct. 14.


Photo by Jody Somers for The Star-Ledger

These “Heads” Are Not Just Masks

Marek Bartelik

Public art has been an integral part of our urban surroundings for a long time. Whether we consider the imprints of human hands on the walls of ancient caves in Spain and France or the allegorical shadows described by Plato in The Republic, the very first works of art were “public projects” realized by people who sought to speak to their collective community and perhaps to humanity as a whole, rather than to art connoisseurs. The institutionalization of art brought on by modernity endowed the term “public art” with more specificity: it described works of art displayed, temporarily or permanently, in outdoor urban spaces, such as streets, parks, and squares, instead of in museums and galleries. By entering our environment public art interacts with our daily lives, in which truth is neither a material nor a subject matter.

The exhibition of Dumitru Gorzo’s paintings in the urban environment of Red Bank, New Jersey, constitutes an unorthodox public art project. His works, installed at various locations around the town, neither “blend” with their surroundings in the way traditional monuments or advertisements often do, nor do they “confront” the space around them in the manner of graffiti art. With distinct painterly qualities, Gorzo’s paintings unmistakably look like the works of art that were produced in the artist’s studio; it is extremely difficult to confuse them with other types of images present in the streets. The same applies to the identity of the people depicted in his paintings: these are not portraits of the locals and they are very different from the characters from commercial billboards. Gorzo’s people look like fantastic creatures, recognizable, yet products of the artist’s rich imagination, who have “invaded” our public space to generate a conversation about the meaning of art (not just public art) in our lives.

The fact that Gorzo’s paintings belong to his studio is important. It is also important that his studio has been adjacent to the street. It is there that his art achieves its universal dimension through being engaged in a passionate conversation with the history of art. His works often contain references to other artists (certain of them are explicit, other are oblique) and he alludes to different styles of painting. While exploring the visual lexicon of art, the artist avoids, however, reverting to the strategy of appropriation, so ubiquitous in contemporary art. Despite displaying stylistic similarities to works of art by other artists, each painting he makes is distinctively his. Gorzo strongly believes that art that lasts must have a distinct imprint of its maker. He explained in an interview:  “No great artist has treaded on a path already made by others before him.” Writing about an artist who has been claiming the rights to his signature must remain incomplete.

Gorzo’s involvement with public art started in the 1990s in his native Romania, where he developed a unique artistic language of bold figuration that mixes modern aesthetics with local sources derived from both folk art and modern urban culture. From early on, making art for him demanded direct engagement with the public in general, and in particular, with those who do not visit museums or galleries on a regular basis. “I wanted to meet them,” he said, “and that is how I decided to take my works to the streets, to create works of art which can challenge the ordinary perception in visual arts.”

He completed his first major public project entitled “Cocoons” in Bucharest in 2003. It involved gluing 350 small plaster figurines to the walls of buildings in the center of the Romanian capital. Although visually distinct, the figurines were not intended to become objects of aesthetic or intellectual contemplation, but—as the artist stated—to surprise the viewer by appearing out-of-place, therefore initiating a public debate among passersby about their broader meaning. In fact, the forms were quite generic, looking like some sort of primitive idols. The confusion appeared to be total: some people called them “Satanist signs.” The intent of Gorzo’s “provocation” was, however, not to outrage people, but to force them to question their own perception of what they consider natural in their urban environment and their culture.

More specific were subjects represented in “The Fence” mounted along Banului Street in Bucharest in 2007: these were portraits of people from Gorzo’s native village of Ieud. He painted them realistically, using graphite and plywood as the support. Painting Romanian peasants on a fence in Bucharest was a subversive gesture in itself, because it went against the then current trends in Romanian art that devalued local folk art to the status of a backward expression. This project enabled the artist to question the boundaries between “high” and “low,” as well to reflect on the conditions of universality in art. The work took on its own public life when it was covered with graffiti, which the artist welcomed, viewing such an action as a valuable encounter with the anonymous viewer, who claimed his/her rights to physically interact with Gorzo’s art.

Since his arrival in New York in 2008, Gorzo’s art has not undergone any dramatic formal transformation. It remains figurative, expressive, and, above all, it is his. What changed for him was the context in which his works were being presented as well as his audience. Because the viewer was still the center of his attention, he thought about how to communicate with his American audience, acknowledging its specificity, but also recognizing its commonality with any other audience, including the one in his native Romania. Lately, the characters in his art have become more iconic than the early ones. They stand for types of people rather than for specific characters. In some way they represent us all in different states of mind, the way we perceive ourselves inside, rather than the way the world perceives us. The difference might be subtle, because the way we perceive ourselves has to do a lot with the way we feel we are being perceived by others.

In “Heads” Gorzo uses the artistic license of a painter to speak about humanity in a highly expressive manner, and in doing so he is not afraid to appear slightly obsessed. He shows himself as relentless in the way he works as an artist in search of his expression with its conditions of production. The expressiveness he employs often verges on being satirical, even hallucinatory. But he always remains highly introspective. His characters scrutinize the world with eyes wide open: green, blue, brown, black, pink, blank, carrying the weight of paint, anxious, wet, intense, waiting, absent, full of joy, confident, cloud gazing, almost. His portraits speak about the human condition that is a timeless neurotransmitter. There is an echo of classical Roman antiquity in the way those characters present themselves: more like “sculptures” than images.

In modern art, distortion of human physiognomy has often been linked to the interest by Western artists in non-Western cultures, with their specific ways of representation. Since Pablo Picasso modeled the faces of his figures on African and Iberian masks during the cubist period, that kind of distorting has been accepted as part of the mainstream artistic expression. Asked about his new paintings, Gorzo replied: “They are not masks,” paraphrasing René Magritte. In his famous The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images, 1929), the Belgian Surrealist artist painted the phrase, “This is not a pipe” below the realist image of a pipe. This paradox might be quite obvious now: a representation of the object in painting cannot stand for the object itself. According to Gorzo, masks cover the face, whereas his faces are not covered. His paintings are of heads, not faces—hence the title of his outdoor exhibition. He thinks about them as volume and mass, even if such a presence can be experienced only in an imaginary fashion. Indeed, despite (or because) they are painted his heads are solid like rocks, perhaps like prehistoric dolmans.

The illusionistic third dimension of Gorzo’s Heads might not be the width, which obviously cannot be physically present on a two-dimensional surface. It is the public dimension of the larger space which they occupy. That’s when Red Bank enters into his work, not only as a specific place—with a specific urban dynamics or history—but also as a space where a work of art functions as a work of art. In that context, Gorzo’s “Heads” speak about the urgency of the presence of art in our life, not just blending in with our daily environment, but, in fact, as they stand out from it and assert their meaning with their proper and unique visuality.

NEW JERSEY MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART is proud to present “HEADS” a public art exhibition featuring more than 50 large-scale paintings by Romanian artist, DUMITRU GORZO, from AUGUST 19 – OCTOBER 14, 2012. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Marek Bartelik. Installed on exterior walls at numerous locations throughout picturesque RED BANK, NEW JERSEY, the public art exhibition will be free, open 24 hours a day, and accessible to everyone!


Gorzo’s voice embodies stylistically diverse paintings that explore portraiture with a nuanced observation of the individual spirit. The series of 4’ x 8’ paintings commissioned exclusively for this exhibition focuses on expressive, allegorical, strange, satirical, and futuristic heads.

The paintings unite to create a vibrant tableau intended to draw in the viewer and stimulate conversation with imagery that alternates between fantasy and reality — some heads inspired by classical antiquity, some by the bright colors and strong brushstrokes inherent in Expressionism, some reflections of childhood memories in Romania, some eliciting angst, some adventurous —all of them evocative through the artist’s subjective interpretation for emotional effect.

Students look at the new “Voices in the Street” exhibit at the art gallery on campus.The Spectrum/Megan Pulone
“Gallery Brings Art off the Streets”: Polish Posters at the Sacred Heart University

by Lisa Manente

Published 24 Janury 2012

Students look at the new “Voices in the Street” exhibit at the art gallery on campus.

Bearded men pierced with nails, toes giving the peace sign, and guns with eyes.

These images, along with 30 other posters, are now being displayed in the Gallery of Contemporary Art’s “Voices in the Street,” an exhibit of Polish street posters.

During the gallery’s opening reception on Sunday, exhibit curator, Dr.Marek Bartelik, told the story how his collection that was “never meant to be a collection” accidentally began.

Acquiring the cultural posters from a friend who gave them to him after she failed to sell them, Bartelik donated the works to the collection of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York.

With the help of the Sacred Heart Polish Studies fund, the posters made their way to Sacred Heart. Bartelik chose these specifics posters with art gallery director Sophia Gevas because of their, “visual impact,” she said.

The abstract, graphic, some brightly colored and some black and white visuals did make an impact on visitors to the gallery.

“They are intriguing and there is a lot to be interpreted. They are very sticking,” said senior Donna Nolan, who is a graphic arts minor.

The posters, which were created between 1954 to 1997, were created as street art for cultural elements in Poland, such as music, movies, theater, and operas.

Unlike standard, modern day American advertisements, the Polish posters were edgy, bizarre, and some even interpreted them as violent.

“One man told me he thought many of the posters were violent,” said freshman Mareeka Dookie, who works at the gallery.  “He said they reminded him of war and Nazis.”

Although they were from Poland, many of the poster had traces of American influences in them, as Bartelik pointed out was because of Poland’s new activity into Western Culture.

One poster entitled, “American Painting from the Eighties,” was a picture of  the American flag being painted by a paintbrush stamped with the phrase, “Made in the USA.”

Other posters included familiar American names, like Sean Connery and 20th Century Fox.

While there were many obvious American influences in some of the posters, Polish visitor, Agnes Orlowski, believed that this type of art wouldn’t be accepted if it were on U.S streets.

“It’s disturbing. I don’t think it would play out in America. It would be too controversial,” she said. “Poland is darker than America.”

However, her mother, Polish descendant Halina Orlowski, disagreed.

“No, no. I could argue that,” she said.

While these creations may have been driven as advertisements, Bartelik explained that advertising was second priority to the artists. Their higher priorities were personal expression, releasing emotions, humor, and poetry.

By 1989, these semi homemade, expressive posters became obsolete compared to modernized posters using photographs.

However, Baretlik said, “It is a period that is now extending into present reality. There has become more and more interest in what the posters say.”

However, regardless of whether you understand the Polish words or not, Bartelik encourages viewers of the work to look beyond the unfamiliar language.

“It’s not so important to understand the language. Art is important when it touches your emotions. It’s a conversation that invites you to speak,” he said.

One viewer who was struck emotional by the work was Sacred Heart alumnus Bill Adams.

“They [the posters] say to me, however hard the censorship was, it is nearly impossible to kill the human spirit,” he said.

The “Voices in the Street” exhibit is open until March 1.

Krystiana's workAnna Bella Geiger's workJerzy Kubina's workdsc04309aKrzysztof Zarebski's workZofia Kulik's work

Photo Wayne Ratzenberger


Coming in January
Voices in the Streets: Polish Posters 
from the Collection of the Cooper Union 
for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York
Curated by Marek Bartelik

Henryk Tomaszewski,
Theare Poster for “Witold Gombrowicz “Historia” (Witold Gombrowicz “History”) in Warsaw, 1983
Henryk Tomaszewski

May 2010

Review in ARTNews of “Post-Gogol: The Silent Absence of the Body” at SLAG Gallery

post gogol


October 28 – January 29, 2007

Opening reception Saturday, October 28, 6-9pm


Sept 28, 2006 – Real Art Ways will open its gallery exhibition “POZA” on Saturday, October 28, from 6-9pm. The Polish word “poza” has a double meaning: “posturing” or “posing” (as one disguises his or her true nature for public display) and “beyond” or “trans.” Working in partnership with the Polish Studies Program at Central Connecticut State University, Real Art Ways is organizing accompanying programming including a film series, lectures, artist talks, discussions, and social events. The multidisciplinary project conceived, organized and produced by Real Art Ways, will run from October 28 – January 29, 2007.  Real Art Ways is located at 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, CT.

Curated by the Polish-born and New York based art critic and art historian Marek Bartelik, POZA will gather together works of 31 artists with roots directly or indirectly in Poland, and who currently live in Poland, the United States, Canada, France, and Brazil. The artists represent different generations—the oldest born in the 1930s, the youngest in the early 1980s. The works are divided between the main gallery, three accompanying exhibitions in the Real Room, and accompanying film programming.

Participating artists in the Main Gallery are the Azorro group, Frida Baranek, Anna Bialobroda, Anna Bella Geiger, Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga, Ewa Harabasz, Joanna Hoffmann, Jerzy Kubina, Zofia Kulik, Dominik Lejman, Joanna Malinowska, Jacek Malinowski Gabriela Morawetz, Adam Niklewicz, Krystiana Robb-Narbutt, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Pawel Wojtasik, and Xawery Wolski. Works include painting, sculpture, photography, new media, video and site-specific installations and performances at Real Art Ways, as well as public projects located around Hartford and surrounding towns.

Participating POZA artists exhibiting in the Real Room are presented in three separate shows.  “Art and Performance,” October 19 through November 12, includes artists Kinga Araya, Monika Weiss, and Krzysztof Zarebski.  “Art and the Street,” November 16 through December 17, features the works of Christian Tomaszewski, Karolina Bregula, and Wojciech Gilewicz.  “Art and the Net,” December 21 through January 14, presents artists .

Accompanying Film Programming, with discussion following each screening, will feature the works of directors Dorota Kedzierzawska, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Klamt, Ulrich Rydzewski, Andrzej Wajda and consists of an assortment of documentary and narrative pieces.  Films and dates TBD.

Additional Performances are scheduled for the following dates:

October 28, 6-9pm: Kinga Araya “Black Performance” (Real Art Ways)

November 1, day-long:  Monika Weiss “Site-Specific Ephemeral Installation & Performance” (Manchester Community College)

November 16, 6-9pm: Krzysztof Zarebski “Gift from Escondido: Baby Frankenfood” (Real Art Ways)

January 14, 3pm: Monika Weiss: Film Screening and Panel Discussion (Real Art Ways)

“The Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz once stated: ‘I know very well what kind of Polish culture I wish to have in the future… the weakness of the contemporary Pole resides in his oneness  (in Polish, his “jednoznacznosc”) and also—his onesideness; therefore all effort should be made to enrich him with the second polarity—to complement him with another Pole, who is completely—extremely—different.’ (Dzienniki, 1954)

“Taking as a point of departure specific national and cultural distinctions, which could be called “Polishness” by its choice of artists, the show will offer an open-ended proposition that treats such distinctions as matters of choice and awareness, rather than linking them to a specific geography or a place of birth; the art will be interpreted as an expression of enhanced evanescence in a politicized environment that encourages both nationalism and globalism. While such artists as Jacek Malinowski will address the current situation in Poland (more exactly its psychological consequences on the Poles born after the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia), others (Azorro for instance) will deal with a condition of the artist in a free market economy. Kinga Araya, an artist who lives in Canada, will focus on the complex condition of an immigrant, while Krzysztof Wodiczko will examine the persisting abuse of Polish women by Polish men. Karolina Bregula will give visibility to another “silent” presence in the Polish society, that of its sexual minorities.  Attention will also be paid to the way the artists in the show participate in the larger world, exploring its diversity in a conscious and sensitive manner while doing it from both Polish and international perspectives (Gabriela Morawetz, Monika Weiss, and Pawel Wojtasik).  Finally, several works (by Frida Baranek, Anna Bella Geiger, and Ursula von Rydingsvard) will deal with issues of memory as a departure point for both questioning current reality and maintaining its continuity.”

-Marek Bartelik, Curator, POZA

By organizing POZA, Real Art Ways extends its commitment to showing art that deals with urgent issues of our times and, at the same time, explores them beyond our own national boundaries. Real Art Ways Executive Director Will K. Wilkins stated:  “We are very fortunate to have a vibrant Polish community in our region. This gives added meaning to our presentation of POZA.”

Real Art Ways is partnering in this multidisciplinary project with U.S Central Connecticut State University’s Polish Studies department, one of the most important Polish Studies programs in the U.S.

The exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Trust for Mutual Understanding and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York.


Founded in 1975, Real Art Ways is one of the country’s seminal multi-disciplinary alternative spaces, featuring an extensive gallery exhibition program, as well as commissioned projects for public spaces and an on-going series of artistic discussions, cinema programs, concerts, performances, spoken word and educational programs.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Thursday & Sunday 2-10 pm;  Friday and Saturday 2pm-midnight. Closed Mondays. Free to members, $3.00 suggested donation for non-members.


The second “installment” of POZA in Opole, Poland, turned to be not what I intended it to be, but c’est la vie.

Exhibition KRAJ in Opole

# # #

Monika Weiss's workKarolina Bregula's workGabriela Morawetz's work


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