Just After the War
03.10.2015 – 10.01.2016 Just After the War
curators: Joanna Kordjak, Agnieszka Szewczyk
co-operation: Magdalena Komornicka
Chaos, widespread poverty, mass repatriation, the obligatory migration of millions of people forced by the decisions of the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam to leave their homes and settle “the wild west”, fear of the Red Army, but also of the return of the Germans, rampant banditism, looting, lynches and pogroms against Jews: this is the shocking image that emerges of Poland just after the war. This image is comprised of the dismantling of existing social structures, the destabilization of the state, mistrust towards the new communist authorities, and also uncertainty as to the new borders manipulated by cold war propaganda.
The exhibition is an attempt to answer the question as to how the complicated social moods and political tensions in post-war Poland found their expression in the visual arts, photographs, film and also architecture and design. Is the key period in modern Polish history of 1944–1949 equally important in the field of art? How were the first years of the new, dynamically changing socio-political reality and atmosphere, on the one hand the “euphoria of rebuilding” and on the other the “Great Fear” described by Marcin Zaremba, interpreted by artists? What function was art supposed to play in this configuration? In what situation did new artists make their debuts? Do the war and 1945 really constitute a caesura after which everything began afresh, or did these revolutionary times create an opportunity to realise postulates and conceptions that had been hatched earlier (such as workers’ housing estates or “cheap and beautiful furniture for all”).
The exhibition presenting several hundred objects from various fields of art and a rich array of archival material focusses on the exploration of a number of fundamental questions. A key intrigue is that of the connections between art, politics and cultural activities in the frame of the specific institutions of this period (such as the Bureau for the Reconstruction of the Capital, the Reader or the Bureau for the Supervision of Aesthetic Production), as well as that of the role of art in the service of propaganda used to legitimate the new authorities and new borders (such as the Regained Territories’ Exhibition). The next important theme is that of the reconstruction of the country from ruins: the almost total destruction of the capital opened it up for the often utopian visions of urbanists and architects. The unusually significant and widely discussed in this period theme of the Holocaust and the means to remember it (e.g. monuments, museums opened on the terrain of concentration camps) is presented at the exhibition in the context of post-war anti-Semitism.
The leitmotif of the exhibition is the theme of ruins: from the conception of the ruin as architecture, through the anthropomorphic vision of the mutilated city or antique ruins in the visual arts, to the pragmatic need to find solutions for clearing the city of rubble or the characteristic for this time building of housing blocks from rubble concrete.
A leading role was played by photography – both artistic, reportage and documentary photography – as a medium in which it was most possible to transmit the specific atmosphere of the period, but one which was also most powerfully used as a tool of propaganda. The unusual number of images of brutality and violence that saturated the visual culture of the day (both in the press and photographic albums) left a clear imprint on the art of this time.
At the exhibition we present the works of such artists as: Mieczysław Berman, Jan Bogusławski, Marian Bogusz, Barbara and Stanisław Brukalski, Jan Bułhak, Maria Chrząszczowa, Zbigniew Dłubak, Xawery Dunikowski, Krystyna Gorazdowska, Maria Jarema, Felicjan Szczęsny Kowarski, Tadeusz Kantor, Julia Kotarbińska, Aleksander Krzywobłocki, Tadeusz Kulisiewicz, Bronisław Kupiec, Jan Kurzątkowski, Bohdan Lachert, Alfred Lenica, Bronisław Linke, Jadwiga Maziarska, Maciej Nowicki, Jerzy Nowosielski, Fortunata Obrąpalska, Julia Pirotte, Natan Rapaport, Erna Rosenstein, Jerzy Skarżyński, Henryk Stażewski, Władysław Strzemiński, Marek Leon Suzin, Helena and Szymon Syrkus, Feliks Topolski, Henryk Tomaszewski, Tadeusz Trepkowski, Bolesław Utkin, Stefan Wegner, Marek Włodarski, Władysław Wołkowski, Andrzej Wróblewski, Wojciech and Stanisław Zamecznik.
Artists' works in the Zachęta collection
Just After the War
03.10.2015 – 10.01.2016
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
See on the map
Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.