Alina Szapocznikow – Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972

September 10, 2011 – January 8, 2012
Wiels Contemporary Art Centre – Av. Van Volxemlaan 354 – Brussel

The Polish-French artist Alina Szapocznikow (1926 – 1973) began working during the postwar period. She innovated classical figurative sculpture. Her art  stimulated  surrealism,  Nouveau Réalisme, and Pop art. The consequences of social disharmony in the holocaust, influenced her work majorly. Lips and breasts become everyday objects, like lamps or ashtrays. At war, man becomes a lifeless tool for the savage orchestrators of the will to power.

“A sculptor who began working during the postwar period in a classical figurative style, Alina Szapocznikow radically re-conceptualized sculpture as an imprint not only of memory but also of her own body. Though her career effectively spanned less than two decades (cut short by the artist’s premature death in 1973 at age 47), Szapocznikow left behind a legacy of provocative objects that evoke Surrealism, art. Her tinted polyester casts of body parts, often transformed into everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays; her poured polyurethane forms; and her elaborately constructed sculptures, which at times incorporated photographs, clothing, or car parts, all remain as wonderfully idiosyncratic and culturally resonant today as when they were first made. Well-known in Poland, where her work has been highly influential since early in her career, Szapocznikow’s compelling book of work is ripe for art-historical reexamination. Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972 offers a comprehensive overview of this important artist’s work at a moment when international interest is blossoming. Spanning one of the most rich and complex periods of the 20th century, Szapocznikow’s oeuvre responds to many of the ideological and artistic developments of her time through artwork that is at once fragmented and transformative, sensual and reflective, playfully realized and politically charged.

The exhibition at Wiels Contemporary Art Centre features roughly one hundred artworks, privileging all of the media Szapocznikow wor- ked in, including photography and drawing alongside her primary practice of sculpture and object-making, but also giving place to archival documents and other preparatory and documentary material. Involving loans from private and public collections, from institutions in Poland but also abroad, this exhibition will endeavor to introduce and contextualize the artist’s work to a broader international audience, all while revealing its resolute contemporanity and continuing relevance to discussions of sculpture-making today.

draws on loans from private and public collections, including major institutions in Poland. It is accompanied by a major publication, co-published by The Museum of Modern Art and Mercatorfonds, that reflects new scholarship on Szapocznikow, contextualizing this little known artist’s work for a wider audience. The exhibition is organized at MoMA by Connie Butler, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings.”

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Installation views
Installation view of the Alina Szapocznikow retrospective Sculpture Undone at WIELS, 2011.
Photo © Filip Vanzieleghem