Tadeusz Kantor. Interior of the Imagination

Tadeusz Kantor. Interior of the Imagination

Zachęta—National Gallery of Art

Tadeusz Kantor with the Multipart in the background (Multipart Action, painting of the Second Group, 1971), photo J. M. Stoklosa   

April 20, 2005

Tadeusz Kantor: Interior of the Imagination
16th April – 12th June 2005

Zacheta National Gallery of Art
Pl. Malachowskiego 3
00-916 Warszawa

Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor
ul. Szczepanska 2
31-011 Krakow


Curators: Marek Swica, Jaroslaw Suchan

The major difference between this exhibition and the vast majority of previous presentations of the oeuvre of Tadeusz Kantor lies in its approach to its subject matter. Its goal is not the reconstruction of the “model” image of the artist’s work, as sanctioned by the artist himself, but an attempt to present his work from the perspective of a contemporary viewer who has grown up with different cultural experiences and is endowed with a different visual sensibility. Thus, above and beyond the fact that the exhibition omits nothing of significance, its key feature is that in contradistinction to typical monographic exhibitions it does not limit itself to setting works in their historical context. It is rather an attempt to interpret the works in a way that enables Kantor’s art to be seen as a phenomenon that is still of very real contemporary significance.

The conception of the exhibition is founded on the conviction that in Kantor’s art, despite the fact that some of his works are deservedly classed as masterpieces, it is not so much the individual works themselves, but the idea created by the artist that is of prime significance. The exhibition does not therefore present the works as closed artefacts, but demonstrates the way in which they acted above all as the translation of Kantor’s artistic practice.

This attempt to (re)construct Kantor’s “interior” is founded on three concepts that were fundamental to Kantor’s art: the avant-garde, reality and the interior. For it is precisely the presence of these three elements, interweaving in a many-layered thread of mutual tensions and dependencies, that creates the remarkable power of his work. The permanent state of “dynamic imbalance” between them means also that despite the huge internal differences within Kantor’s oeuvre – the passage through the different stages, the embracing of successive languages and concepts, the engaging with ever new fields of activity – his art today emerges as an astoundingly unified whole. The first theatrical undertakings, the dialogue with the avant-garde, with informel, the “games with Witkacy”, the experiments of the 60′s and 70′s, the Theatre of Death and even the final paintings: all of these actions, in many respects so different from one another, turn out in the context of the triad of concepts mentioned to all be chapters of the same story. Of a story in which a yearning for an avant-garde utopia mixes with a fear of its tyranny, and where memory is both a burden and a liberation from the terror of modernity, while reality is in its turn a homage made to illusion.

In this year falls the 90th anniversary of Kantor’s birth and the 15th of his death. Thirty years ago saw the premiere of Kantor’s most celebrated play Dead Class.

As part of the exhibition, Kantor’s installation The Machine of Love and Death will be presented in the Kordegarda Gallery.

Honorary Patron of the exhibition is Waldermar Dabrowski, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Poland, and Janusz Sepiol, Marshall of the Malapolska Region.
Tadeusz Kantor (1915 Wielopole Skrzynskie – 1990 Krakow)
One of the most outstanding artists of the second half of the 20th century: painter, drawer, art theoretician, set designer and theatre director, creator of happenings, theatre reformer and major figure on the Polish art scene. He studied at the Academy of the Fine Arts in Cracow, where after the war he was professor on two occasions, on both occasions also being dismissed from the position. During the occupation he founded the Underground Theatre, and in 1945 Group of Young Visual Artists. In 1948 he was one of the organisers of the 1st Exhibition of Modern Art in Cracow, at which he exhibited metaphorical paintings. The inspiration for these, and for many of his later works, was the latest trends in world art, with which Kantor became acquainted during his many travels, to New York and Paris, amongst others. During the period 1950-1954, unable to reconcile himself with the doctrine of socialist realism, he withdrew from the official artistic scene. In 1955 in the company of Maria Jarema he founded the independent theatre, Teatr Cricot 2. In 1957, along with a group of other artists he reactivated the Cracow Group. He made abstract informel paintings, before briefly returning to object art with his emballages. In the 1960′s he started to produce plays within the frame of the Zero and Happening Theatre. Beginning in 1965 he began to collaborate with the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, where he held exhibitions and created a series of artistic actions and happenings. He went on to stage the multiple award-winning play Dead Class according to the principles of the Theatre of Death. In the 80′s he presented a further series of highly acclaimed plays: Wielopole, Wielopole, Let the Artists Vanish and I Shall Never Return Here. During this period he also made a marked return to figurative art.
Exhibition Organisers

Zacheta National Gallery of Art
Pl. Malachowskiego 3
00-916 Warszawa www.zacheta.art.pl
Director Agnieszka Morawinska

Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor
ul. Szczepanska 2
31-011 Krakow www.cricoteka.com.pl
Director Natalia Zarzecka

Organisation on the Zacheta Side Julia Leopold
Organisation on the Cricoteka Side Natalia Zarzecka, Malgorzata Paluch-Cybulska

Exhibition Organised with the Financial Support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Poland

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Zachęta—National Gallery of Art
April 20, 2005

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