Until 14 December Luxembourg and Dayan Gallery presents first UK exhibition of works by Polish postwar artist Jerzy “Jurry” Zieliński in London. On this occasion, Monika Waraxa reflects on the re-discovery of “Jurry” Zieliński.
There is no Jurry without Jan Cybis. There are no paintings by Gruppa and Wilhelm Sasnal without Jurry’s paintings in red and green.
The monograph The Return of Jurry wouldn’t have been published and Jurry wouldn’t have re-entered the galleries and museums if it wasn’t for the stubbornness and determination of Marta Tarabuła – the director of Zderzak Gallery in Cracow. Jurry`s meeting with Warhol and Wasselmann would’ve never taken place. Julian Schnabel would’ve never had the chance to recognise his own reflection in Jurry’s paintings. Fortunately, the white curtain of oblivion has fallen.
Every single artist wishes to be a part of such a story; wishes to be discovered. It’s usually the curator who plays the role of a saviour and arrives on a white horse, to take an artist and his works on a great adventure around the art world. The fantasy hardly ever becomes reality, especially if one takes into account market mechanisms and speculation. On the other hand, the art world is the world of unexpected turns and exceptions to the rule. So anything can happen.
In this particular scenario, the knight on a white horse is Alison Gingeras, the curator who stumbled across the The Return of Jurry monograph in Warsaw. Next, she visited Marta Tarabuła at the Zderzak Gallery in Cracow to see the paintings. It was love at first sight. As the result of their cooperation, Jurry’s paintings were featured for the very first time outside the Polish borders – at Oko curatorial space in New York, conceived by Gingeras. Finally, the paintings from the exhibition were bought to become a part of Pinault’s collection at Palazzo Grassi, in Venice.
Very personal point of view
My meeting face-to-painting with Jurry took place in 2006, at the small show held by the currently non-existent Oficyna Malarska Gallery in Warsaw. Somehow the exhibition was both grand and intimate. I was wondering what would Andy Warhol say meeting those paintings? My essay written on that show was later included in the Jurry`s monograph alongside the pieces written by Anda Rottenberg, Jarosław Modzelewski and Ryszard Woźniak. From then on, I could witness the process of bringing Jurry to the light.
In autumn, 2010 the National Museum in Cracow held the exhibition The Return of Jurry comprising the artist’s romantic paintings with political and erotic touches. Obviously, sex means power.
Helsinian Period, the parallel display at the Zderzak Gallery, presented the portraits of talking head that were found in the artist’s studio after his fatal accident. The very important part of Jurry`s coming out was the monograph. This comprehensive album published by Zderzak Gallery has collected the opinions of people he met; his drawings and sketches that enable us to retrace his creative process; the texts written by art historians and artists inspired by Jurry; and – last, but certainly not the least – full collection of paintings – all these elements were gathered for the monograph.
Jurry and paintings
“Cherishing the post-impressionist, or Bonnardesque, to be exact, charm permeated us with boredom” – Jurry says. The message of Jurry’s paintings is concise; based upon the compression of meaning, references to politics, passions, weaknesses and dilemmas. Needless to say, Jurry drew an inspiration from the equally concise messages of the poster-designers, e.g. those by Henryk Tomaszewski though he was a genuine painter.
In October, Jurry`s romantic paintings were on display in London, both at the Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery and Frieze Art Fair where Jurry was presented next to American pop artists: Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann and Jasper Johnes. This acquaintance seemed both magical and surreal, considering the times in which Jurry`s paintings were done; the times in which the Iron Curtain separated West art world from the East. Jurry`s paintings creates the new context for the Western pop art regarded in itself only as a closed period in the art history. Jurry’s works allow for the re-interpretation of the movement and adoption of a fresh perspective on it.
Posthumous surge of interest in Jurry’s works can be a matter for pride, or rather astonishment. I’m not sure whether any artist dreams of being discovered after their death. If I were one, I would rather dream of those paintings.
Edited by: Contemporary Lynx