Minimal, Conceptual and Material – the Phenomenon of Wanda Czełkowska’s Sculptures
International Conference of Experts
10-11 February 2017
Featuring: Wanda Czełkowska, prof. Richard Demarco, prof. Maria Hussakowska, Anke Kempkes, Anna Kłosowska, prof. Jerzy Malinowski, Ewa Opałka, Agnieszka Tarasiuk, Ewa Tatar, dr hab. Ewa Toniak
The conference will take place at the end of the exhibition Wanda Czełkowska. Retrospection, on view from 6th November 2016 to 12th February 2017 in the Museum of Sculpture at the Królikarnia Palace. Retrospection presents the silhouette of an artist who, in spite of her 60 years long continuous practice, has not been well explored in Polish art history. The conference will open with a summary conversation between Wanda Czełkowska, Ewa Opałka and Agnieszka Tarasiuk, and moderated by Dorota Jarecka. During the meeting a catalogue will also be launched.
The first part of the conference will be dedicated to the local context of Czełkowska’s practice – in Cracow and Poland-wide. During the second part, her art will be analysed in the global context. One of the topics that serve as the point of departure both for the exhibition and the conference is the mechanism of including or not including a given artistic personality within the field of art history. An academic perspective permitting to observe one of the constituents of this mechanism will be presented by dr hab. Ewa Toniak. The researcher will give a lecture reminding female artists active between 1950–1970, such as Alina Ślesińska or Alina Szapocznikow, already described in her publications such as Polish Women Artists (Artystki polskie) and She-Giants (Olbrzymki). In this context, she will also attempt to reconstruct the career of Wanda Czełkowska.
Wanda Czełkowska started to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow in 1949, in the sculpture studio of Jerzy Bandura. Xawery Dunikowski was definitely a guardian spirit and a figure of authority for her. The author of The Table (Stół, 1968–1971) and The Absolute Elimination of the Sculpture as a Notion of Shape (Bezwzględne wyeliminowanie rzeźby jako pojęcia kształtu, 1975–1995) spent 50 years of her life in Cracow, where she stayed after graduating. Living at Karmelicka street together with a group of artist friends that she referred to as an “art kolkhoz” [kolkhoz stands for a collective farm in the Soviet Union], she had a love-hate relationship with the city. She also slightly distanced herself from her most immediate artistic context – the circle of Cracow Group II. Although her relations with the group are not well documented, one can feel that Czełkowska – in spite of declaring her connection to the figure and theatre of Tadeusz Kantor and participating in cyclical exhibitions – remained only loosely connected to the group itself. Prof. Maria Hussakowska will speak about the context of the artist’s activities in the art world of Cracow, while prof. Jerzy Malinowski will further develop this topic in view of the topographic and interpersonal aspect of those activities. Ewa Tatar’s talk will also be situated in the area of impact of Cracow Group II.
Anna Kłosowska – contemporary art restorer at the National Museum in Cracow – will close the first part with her talk on the challenges entailed by the conservation of such installations as The Table (Stół, 1968–1971) and The Wall (Ściana, 1975–1976). Both works form part of the collection of the National Museum in Cracow.
Prof. Richard Demarco – experienced curator and gallery director from Edinburgh – will focus on the artist’s experiences with the global art world. Demarco, as the person responsible for visual arts at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1972, organised a show of Polish avant-garde entitled “Atelier ’72”, featuring, among others: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tadeusz Kantor, Roman Opałka and Zbigniew Warpechowski. After getting acquainted with the concept of The Table (Stół), he invited Czełkowska to make a work in Edinburgh. During his talk, Demarco will reconstruct the history of the negotiations that led to the presentation of Conceptual Information about The Table (Informacja pojęciowa o “Stole”) at that festival.
Anke Kempkes – curator and owner of the Broadway 1602 gallery in New York – will speak about the global perception of Czełkowska’s works in the contemporary context. Kempkes, who curated the show of Alina Szapocznikow “Flesh at War With Enigma” in 2004 at Kunsthalle Basel, will collate Czełkowska’s artistic silhouette with the figure of Rosemarie Castoro – minimalist from New York, whose exhibition “Loft Show” took place in New York in 2015.
The conference will end with the speech of Ewa Opałka – the exhibition’s curator – who will present the concept of the Retrospection show at the Museum of Sculpture in Królikarnia, in relation to the philosophical tradition of phenomenology and corporal feminism, the aspect of materiality of Czełkowska’s sculptures and the issue of specificity of an embodied (female) subject.