Squirting and cracking but keeping on banging. And the conscience bites. Tadeusz Brzozowski: Inspirations, Contexts, Motifs
The year 2018 is marked by the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tadeusz Brzozowski (1918–1987). An outstanding painter, draughtsman, set designer and teacher, by the 1960s he became one of Europe’s most interesting artists. His “color alchemy” was a unique phenomenon in 20th-century art. His intriguing works, drawing the viewer into multiple mysterious spaces, multilayer structures and luminous colors, tell a complex, subversive and universal story playing out the conflicts, contrasts, juxtapositions and joys of human life.
The exhibition traces the evolution of Brzozowski’s creative process but first of all it attempts to present his art through his drawings. Hitherto overshadowed by his brilliant painting, drawing was nevertheless essential to Brzozowski’s approach. While providing an interpretive key to his paintings, his drawings are at the same time autonomous works of art captivating with the intricacy of line, form, and content. They are usually given intriguing, humorous and puzzling titles.
Thus, the exhibition features drawings and prints alongside paintings in which line defines the composition’s structure rather than merely complementing color design. Some works on paper are put on display for the first time ever.
The art of Tadeusz Brzozowski is presented in three contexts: his inspirations with historic art, against the art of his contemporaries, and illuminated by the pursuits of his disciples and followers. Thus, his fascination is showcased with great Polish artists of the interwar period: Tadeusz Makowski and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, as well as with Early Modern masters, like Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbain, especially the latter’s interpretations of The Dance of Death (danse macabre). Polish vernacular art also inspired Brzozowski, especially 17th-century funerary portraits. Brzozowski’s art is also confronted with his distinguished colleagues and artist friends: Alina Szapocznikow, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Tchórzewski, Władysław Hasior, and Antoni Rząsa. Finally, another perspective on Brzozowski’s art is provided by the works of his former students Izabella Gustowska and Aldona Mickiewicz, and also other artists of the younger generation: Dorota Kuczma, Wojciech Ćwiertniewicz, Piotr Janas, and Jakub Julian Żiólkowski. They all share with Brzozowski a similar outlook on the world and man and their approaches to form reveal some unexpected connections.
Brzozowski’s words quoted in the exhibition’s title were a self-comment on his own art. They have guided the exhibition’s narration and they are also surprisingly relevant to the works of other artists featured at the exhibition whose artistic and existential pursuits show them “squirting and cracking but keeping on banging. And the conscience bites”.