24.07 – 25.10.2020 Monika Sosnowska
curator: Maria Brewińska
cooperation: Michał Kubiak
production: Krystyna Sielska
Prepared specially for the Zachęta, Monika Sosnowska’s exhibition is the first such large monographic presentation organized in Poland. It features the artist’s older works selected from her comprehensive output as well as more recent works focusing around new themes and inspirations. The exhibition fills the space of Zachęta’s seven main rooms, which, thanks to the variety of the items, facilitates tracing the conceptualisation and changes in Sosnowska’s art. These works are situated across a broad sculptural, architectural and technological context. They stem from the tradition of modernism which is being reviewed and processed in a consistent manner.
Monika Sosnowska has become famous for her works inspired by early and post-war architectural modernism, in which she sometimes refers to iconic projects (‘Lake Shore Drive Apartments’ by Mies van der Rohe, 1948-1951, in Tower, 2014), but she generally explores the architecture of socmodernism – construction projects created in Poland in the 1960s and 1970s. The topography of modernism that she examines is rather extensive; her recent works are an expression of her fascination with Russian engineering architecture by Vladimir Shukhov and her interest in post-war modernism in Asia.
The starting point for her artistic strategy has been the architecture of post-war urban modernization – look-alike concrete housing estates, shops, urban infrastructure (market stalls, barriers, gates, etc.) characterized by austerity, often shoddy structure or lack of any ‘design’. An important reference point is constituted here by façades, walls, and spatial modules: rooms and corridors with their typical interior design (wainscoting, wallpapers) and so-called small architecture: handrails, stairs, doors, door handles, and lamps mass-produced in line with the principles of technology and materials available in the communist period. Architectonization of sculptures consists in using the language of architecture and construction in an unprecedented way: these include borrowings of solid elements reproduced precisely one-to-one, deformed, and stripped of their original function. The goal is to question the rational foundations of architecture – structural elements change into abstraction, conciseness and logic get disrupted, which brings in uncertainty and chaos. The force exerted on the construction materials (steel, concrete) begins to test and sap their strength. Such action creates an impression of plasticity of matter and illusion of lightness. In a way, it shows the forces that are invisible when one experiences architecture directly.
The narrative of Monika Sosnowska’s exhibition at the Zachęta begins with the steel top rail coated in vivid red PVC, in a manner typical of socmodernism (Poręcz, Handrail, 2016-2020); it begins to run entwined with the existing handrail of the gallery building, but it continues to climb up the wall turning at various levels and going into one of the exhibition rooms. It provokes the direction of sightseeing, although it is not obligatory. This is one of the works that perversely interprets the design of communist Poland and exemplifies the recycling of modernist ideas present in each piece made by the artist. The monumental curtain Fasada (Façade 2016), a borrowing from a typical building, is a steel skeleton, deformed under the pressure of powerful forces. Another piece, Targowisko (Market, 2013), recreates the makeshift amateur structures of market stalls from the Europa Fair at the 10th-Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw, stored as scrap metal when the bazaar was closed in 2008; when suspended, the bundle of their skeletons turns into an anonymous abstract tangle. Experiments with steel bending – “construction exercises” – are conducted in many works, including T (2017) - a T-bar bent to form the right angle and in Rura (Pipe, 2020) – a massive drainpipe cut in half with a burner and rolled up like a peeling. Looking for new inspirations, the artist reached the engineering architecture of the eminent creator of industrial structures, Vladimir Shukhov. The series Cross Brace (2019) refers to Shukhov’s projects made at the beginning of the 20th century in Russia. The steel sculptures look stretched almost to the limit, using stresses that have never been tested before. Several of the latest works made of a mix of reinforcing bars and concrete refer to the architecture of Bangladesh, where next to the local version of modernism one can come across chaotic architectural reality, and where – despite the disruption of the principles of rational construction engineering – everything works.
According to architect Tom Emerson, Monika Sosnowska’s art presents intriguing architectural references from psychologizing interiors, through utopian and political ideas of socmodernism, to purely structural and fundamental construction elements. On yet another level, it reveals a potential ‘architectural failure’ by extracting things that architects unconsciously fear as they design structures that are supposed to outlive us all.
Works on exhibition
born in 1972 in Ryki, lives and works in Warsaw. She studied at Schola Posnaniensis – University of Applied Arts (1992-1993), at the Faculty of Painting of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań (1993-1998), and at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam (post-graduate studies, 1999–2000). In 2003, she received the prestigious Baloise Art Prize and the Polityka Passport in the field of visual arts. She is a laureate of the Schering Foundation scholarship (2004) at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. In 2007, she represented Poland at the 52nd Venice Biennale.
Selected solo exhibitions:
Monika Sosnowska. Exercises in Construction, Bending, Garage Contemporary Art Center, Moscow, 2020; Aird’s Lane, The Modern Institute, Glasgow, 2019; Urban flowers, Galerie Gisela Captain, Cologne, 2018; Structural Exercises, Hauser & Wirth, London, 2017; Models 2007 – 2017, Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, 2017; Monographic intervention by Monika Sosnowska, Museum Susch, 2017; Habitat, The Contemporary Austin, Austin, 2016; Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2016; Architectonisation, Serralves Foundation, Porto, 2015; Monika Sosnowska. Regional Modernities, Australian Center for Conemtemporary Art, Melbourne, 2013; Monika Sosnowska, Perez Art Museum Miami, Project Gallery; Aspen Art Museum, 2013; Fire Escape, Museo Tamayo’, Mexico City, 2011; The Staircase, K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf (2010); 1:1, The Polish Pavilion, 52nd Venice Biennale, 2007; Kunstuseum Lichtenstein, Vaduz, 2007, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2004, Projects 83: Monika Sosnowska, Museum of Modern Art, Nowy York, 2006
Selected group exhibitions:
Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery, London, 2018; Honey, I rearranged the collection, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, 2018; Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj, Sharjah International Art Biennial, Sharjah, 2017; Primary Structures and Speculative Froms, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2017; Sculpture on the Move 1946-2016, Kunstmuseum Basel, 2016; Architectural Allusions, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, 2015; Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity, MCA, Chicago, 2012, New Sculpture, Zachęta - Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, Warsaw, 2012; ILLUMInations, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, Venice, 2011; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2010; Hayward Gallery, London, 2009; Monika Sosnowska/Andrea Zittel, Schaulager, Munchenstein, Basel
24.07 – 25.10.2020
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.
The exhibition has been produced in cooperation with Hauser&Wirth, the Foksal Gallery Foundation, The Modern Institut, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Kurimanzutto.