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Modernity in Polish photography 1918-1939
exhibition opening: September 27th, 2019, 8 PM

Featuring the works by: Janusz Maria Brzeski, Jan Bułhak, Tadeusz Cyprian, Benedykt Jerzy Dorys, Krystyna Gorazdowska, Karol Hiller, Stefan Jasieński, Aleksander Krzywobłocki, Jalu Kurek, Kazimierz Lelewicz, Janina Mierzecka, Napoleon Nałęcz-Moszczyński, Jan Alojzy Neuman, Kazimierz Podsadecki, Witold Romer, Stefan Themerson, Antoni Wieczorek, Aleksander Zakrzewski, Edmund Zdanowski

Curator of the third edition: Maria Franecka
Curators of the previous two editions: Paulina Kurc-Maj, Maria Franecka

exhibition open until October 27th, 2019
exhibition within the BIAŁYSTOK INTERPHOTO 2019 International Photography Festival

“New operators! Be able to look at everything that is happening around you with the eye of an explorer…” Janusz Brzeski wrote to photographers and filmmakers in 1932. During the interwar period in Poland, the avantgarde artists and photographers more and more often experimented with modern media of expression, explored formal possibilities for this medium, achieving surprising and innovative effects.

The exhibition presents the works of the avantgarde artists like Karol Hiller, Janusz Maria Brzeski, Kazimierz Podsadecki, Stefan Themerson and the works of the photographers who, to some extent, used a modern language in photos but were still under influence of the pictorial aesthetics.

On the first floor, we can see experiments verging reality and abstraction. On the ground floor, there are the photos presenting a modern city from a new-seen point of view, the works which show both fascination of technical progress and a fear of potential threats, and a vision of a new man.

A feature distinguishing photography from other fields – documentary accuracy which lets, by the use of a camera, catch a reality accurately with details, was willingly and often used in contemporary works. Paradoxically, this aim to show an every detail objectively led sometimes to make an object unreal, for example things taken in a very close shot, in a narrow frame, from a surprising perspective, where texture of photographed objects was shown with full focus of outline. Taking out an object from context, alienating it, was very often done formally. In some works, the photographers tried to catch light effects on a water surface or walls. They admired variety of image and patterns which can be made while perpetuating ephemeral light leaks, and smooth or wavy water.

Everyday subjects, shown in a different context than they were created for, shown because of their formal advantages, were used also in photograms where they became parts of surprising constellations. In photograms – pictures taken on light sensitive material without a camera, material objects blend with physical phenomenon in the way that they are a unity impossible to part. During a process when such works are made, randomness, which becomes a part of working, plays a leading role.

The photograms inspired Karol Hiller to make an own artistic technique which he named heliographic technique and which contains elements of painting, graphics and photography. It let the artist control creating his work more. Starting point was not a subject but chemical processes and artist’s imagination. They had a leading impact on a look of an object. The artist created own imagined worlds, filled with different shapes which looked like organic forms. He wrote about a need to give up a sign, a symbol in favour of “emotional content” which is a crucial element for image and creates it.

Aleksander Krzywobłocki created surprising sets of everyday subjects, based on his intuition, rejecting rational criteria. In his photomontages and photographic installations he desired to catch atmosphere of non-realism and mysteries. The sets of the subjects, as Lech Lechowicz said, make “connections of meanings” which creates metaphoric picture in viewers’ mind.

A faster style of life, industrialization, urbanisation, and social changes made that a new visual language was looked for, an expression which could show contemporary experience adequately. New ways of seeing and understanding the world permeated also to pop culture, changing a picture of the press. On the ground floor, we can see the city whose picture was often taken from atypical perspective which, in connection with a surprising frame, created its dynamism. The metropolises with wide avenues, monumental buildings and huge bridges delighted and fascinated people, being an elegant background for a modern lifestyle and, on the other hand, weighting them down with their size and a number of stimuli. At the exhibition we can see an idea of a new man: elegant women on magazine covers, so ideal that almost dehumanized in their perfection; or passers-by reflected in shop windows. At the same time also workers were shown, through mechanisation of work and mass production, often treated like tools. The artists in the photomontages and photos thematised fears connected with developing industrialization and urbanisation, showing widespread violence, alienation, and dehumanization of an individual. There were also the pictures expressing belief in progress and admiration about beauty of machine.

The exhibition is cofinanced by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź.