February 18, 2014 - La Kunsthalle Mulhouse - The Night of the Great Season
February 18, 2014

The Night of the Great Season

Jakub Julian Ziółkowski, Planet, 2012. Oil on canvas, 144 x 111 cm. Courtesy of the artist, Foksal Gallery Foundation and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich.

The Night of the Great Season
February 19–May 11, 2014

Opening: Tuesday, February 18, 6:30pm

La Kunsthalle Mulhouse / La Fonderie
16 rue de la Fonderie
68093 Mulhouse Cedex

T +33 (0) 3 69 77 66 47
kunsthalle [​at​] mulhouse.fr


Artists: Bruno Schulz, Tadeusz Kantor, Erna Rosenstein, Alina Szapocznikow, Agnieszka Polska, Jakub Julian Ziółkowski and Tomasz Kowalski

Curator: Martha Kirszenbaum

The Night of the Great Season focuses on Polish neo-surrealism, tracing the historical influence of art, theater and literature in this little known artistic movement. The aim of the exhibition is to question a tendency observed in the early 2000s amongst a generation of young Polish artists, influenced by 1920s and ’30s Surrealist techniques, such as automatic writing and the representation of dreams.  This placed the actors of this scene in opposition to the previous generations of Polish art, such as those who were proponents of critical art and realism from the 1990s. The artists presented here create works that exist outside of reality, often based on chance and the subconscious, where fantasy, magic and imagination prevail in dark, unsettling, and often disturbing ways.

The exhibition begins by introducing the drawings by Bruno Schulz (Drohobycz 1892–1942), an avant-garde Polish Jewish writer and artist from the 1930s and ’40s, who often combined surreal humor with realistic details, imbuing his graphic and literary work with a keen sense of everyday life. The poetic and uncanny outline of his pen and pencil reflects the everyday life in a provincial Polish town where every element is glorified and transformed into dreams by his imagination.

The 1950s produced a need to escape the traumatic legacy of World War II in Poland and the rigidity of the newly established regime. It is in this context that the artistic milieu of Krakow expressed a desire to bypass reality, a position incarnated by the Krakow Group. Tadeusz Kantor (1915, Wielopole Skrzyńskie–1990, Krakow), a major figure of post-war Polish art, a painter, theater director, poet, actor and happening performer close to Dadaism, would explain the absence of Surrealism in Poland by the prevalence of Catholicism. His work included an illustration of the memory mechanism through a succession of unreal images, crumbs of remembrances, obsessive scenes and absurd situations, transforming characters and objects according to his imagination. Erna Rosenstein (1913, Lvov–2004, Warsaw) was very affected by the concept of abjection dear to Georges Bataille and related to the excess and degradation of natural elements. Her paintings and drawings evoke a feminist engagement that conveys corporality, sensuality, and an attention to difference, while simultaneously relating to automatic writing.

The female body and the tragedy of the Holocaust are topics developed by the sculptor and photographer Alina Szapocznikow (1926, Kalisz–1973, Praz-Coutant), who produced elaborate casts of body parts which are transformed into everyday objects such as lamps or ashtrays. Expressing a lineage with the Surrealists’ erotic fetishism for objects, her work also echoes their desire to jostle the body’s hierarchy and to disorient the viewer towards the status of the object and the image. Agnieszka Polska‘s (b. 1985, Warsaw and Amsterdam) animated films and photographs are visual collages of images gathered from 1960s art magazines and newspapers, which provide her practice with a subtle documentary tone. She often revisits Polish modernism by using historical material and archival photographs in narrative and melancholic animated films. Her series of photocollages “Arton” (2010) figures an organic, almost fairy-tale ensemble of fragments of organic elements and elegant sculptures made of mud and branches.

In closing, the exhibition presents paintings and drawings by Jakub Julian Ziółkowski (b. 1980, Zamość) and Tomasz Kowalski (b. 1984, Krakow). The first depicts hallucinatory landscapes of supernatural vegetation and troubling human figures, referencing the fantastical qualities of Jerome Bosch and the grotesque features of Robert Crumb. The latter manipulates a detailed mise-en-abyme, mirroring the mannequins and puppets of Schulz and Kantor, childhood experiences and fragmented memories. Both originate from Galicia, a southeastern region of Poland, whose culture is infused with Baroque magnificence, glowing poetry, ornament, and a certain form of spiritualism that seems to have deeply influenced their practices.

Enquiries / press office: Clarisse Schwarb: T +33 (0) 3 69 77 66 28 / clarisse.schwarb [​at​] mulhouse.fr

The exhibition The Night of the Great Season is supported by the Polish Institute in Paris
La Kunsthalle Mulhouse is a member of d.c.a.

With the support from the city of Mulhouse – the Regional Cultural Affairs Office of Alsace – French Ministry of Culture and Communication – Department of Haut-Rhin.

The Night of the Great Season at La Kunsthalle Mulhouse
La Kunsthalle Mulhouse
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