This autumn The Hepworth Wakefield will present the first major UK retrospective of Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973), one of the most important, yet for many years, overlooked artists of the 20th century. The exhibition will bring together works spanning Szapocznikow’s career, including a selection of her drawings, which have rarely been publicly displayed.
Szapocznikow’s career was cut short by her premature death in 1973 at the age 47 but her work has been reappraised internationally in the last decade. The exhibition will trace a chronological path through Szapocznikow’s work, highlighting how the artist’s work developed from classically figurative sculptures to her later “awkward objects” which are politically charged and overlaid with Surrealist and Pop Art influences.
The exhibition will include works incorporating Szapocznikow’s characteristic use of cast body parts, many of which she transformed into everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays.
It will feature over 100 works created between 1956 and 1972 including sculpture, drawings, and photography, the exhibition draws on loans from private and public collections, including major institutions in Poland.
Szapocznikow radically reconceptualized sculpture as an imprint not only of memory but also of her own body, related to her traumatic experiences during WWII, as a Polish Jew, imprisoned for over 10 months in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.
After the war Szapocznikow trained as a sculptor in Prague and later in Paris where she first came into contact with the work of artists such as Jean Arp, Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore. She returned to Poland in 1951 and represented her country in the 1962 Venice Biennale.
This exhibition is supported by: The Henry Moore Foundation, Polish Cultural Institute London, Bianca and Stuart Roden and The John S Cohen Foundation.