News end date: 8.01.2017!
The Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology holds its first thematic exhibition examining the phenomenon of the WPROST Group.
The WPROST Group was originally formed by five young painters, graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków: Maciej Bieniasz (b. 1938), Zbylut Grzywacz (1939–2004), Barbara Skąpska (1938–2015), who took part in the first and last of the group’s twenty exhibitions, Leszek Sobocki (b. 1934), and Jacek Waltoś (b. 1938). The young artists differed considerably, working in dissimilar artistic languages. What they shared, however, was a strong belief in the need to rebuild the connection between art and the world, between art and man, as indicated in their manifestos published in conjunction with their earliest exhibitions:
‘We wish to express things directly (wprost), without omitting any of the multifarious possibilities of the plastic arts: subjects, symbolism, meaningful forms, material adequate for the content. Any useful method and material that serves expression is important for depicting, i.e. for revealing the shape of experiences. We show what we do, our craftsmanship, to disclose thoughts and depictions in their direct, often initial form.’ (WPROST, March 1966)
‘To express something straight out means to show – in as direct, open a manner as possible, unobscured by conventions – what stems from experience, in hopes that the experience-based content will turn out to be familiar and close to everyone. If we give up on the “purity” of craftsmanship, we do so only to attain the maximum transparency of the means of expression, because appearance is less important where the meanings are what matters. We do not wish to create yet another conventional language of signs or prop our art up with imitation of reality. We show what we do “in progress” as it were; we wish to create a state of shared presence of the artist and the viewer in a world of depictions of our existence.’ (WPROST, 1969)
There is one thing all researchers agree upon: the WPROST Group was an original, unique phenomenon in Polish art. They shocked and outraged the viewers and the critics with their anti-formalism and anti-aestheticism, while anticipating the neo-figuration of the 1970s and 1980s. Socially-engaged by definition, the WPROST Group’s programme was characterized by a clear uncompromising stance opposing the avantgarde, colourism, as well as abstract art’s futility and programmatic lack of ideology. The Wprostists opposed the model of ‘seeming artistic freedom’ as constructed by the communist authorities, and were against any political manipulation of artists.
They depicted the complicated and ambiguous existential situation of modern man, describing primarily the experience of their own generation in the current social and political contexts. They used modern techniques – montage, environment art, and wcierka (consisting in rubbing paint into unprimed canvas) – as well as self-devised ones, such as ‘substitute’ sculptures, adequate for the reality that they commented upon. The bulk of their work referred to memory, anticipating the discourse that is so characteristic of the humanities in the 21st century, centring around memory and its various aspects. This is also related to the problem of representing the Holocaust in visual arts.
The twenty years of WPROST are shown in eleven mutually-permeating thematic spaces: 1st WPROST Exhibition. An Attempt at Reconstruction; Growing Over; Substitute Labels; March '68; Man without Quality; Playground; Coffin Portraits; Faces; My Own Iconography; A Sunday in August; and Stuffy.
The exhibition ‘WPROST 1966–1986’ prepared by the Manggha Museum to highlight the phenomenon of the group not only provokes a reinterpretation of the history of Polish art in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, but above all is an encouragement to ask important questions straight out (‘wprost’).
And though the Wprostists invoked various traditions, their most important point of reference was the work of Andrzej Wróblewski (1927–1957). This is why the present WPROST Group show is a natural continuation of the Manggha Museum’s research and exhibition project focusing on Polish art after 1945, initiated last year by the exhibit Wróblewski according to Wajda.
The exhibition comprises over 300 works: oil paintings, including some executed in the wcierka technique, sculptures, montages, installations, prints, and drawings.
The exhibits have been loaned by the artists and private collectors, among them: Jacek Bomba, Joanna Boniecka, Maria Grzywacz, Krzysztof Musiał, Tadeusz Nyczek, Anna and Robert Wolak, Stanisława Zadęcka, and also by the following institutions:
National Library in Warsaw
Bureau for Art Exhibitions (BWA) in Kielce
Bureau for Art Exhibitions (BWA) in Rzeszów
Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko
European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk
Jerzy Grzegorzewski Studio Gallery in Warsaw
Archdiocesan Museum in Katowice
Warsaw Archdiocese Museum in Warsaw
Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom
Katowice History Museum
Historical Museum of the City of Kraków
Jacek Malczewski Museum in Radom
Lublin Museum in Lublin
National Museum in Gdańsk
National Museum in Kraków
National Museum in Poznań
National Museum in Szczecin
National Museum in Warsaw
National Museum in Wrocław
Leon Wyczółkowski District Museum in Bydgoszcz
District Museum in Tarnów
District Museum in Toruń
Museum of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) in Kraków
Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź
Silesian Museum in Katowice
Museum in Chorzów
State Gallery of Art in Sopot
Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw
John Paul II Upper-Secondary Schools Complex no. 3 in Jaworzno
The exhibition is accompanied by a profusely illustrated monographic publication containing extensive documentation of the WPROST Group’s activity, with a view to bringing its phenomenon closer to the public.
Prepared by Anna Król