– Autumn/Winter 2015

Andrzej Wróblewski, Our Contemporary

Tom McDonough

Andrzej Wróblewski, Pranie (Matka i córka) (Laundry (Mother and Daughter)), 1956, oil on canvas, 150 × 120cm. Courtesy National Museum, Andrzej Wróblewski Foundation and Museum of Modern Art, all in Warsaw

Unless you are Polish, you might be forgiven for never having heard of painter Andrzej Wróblewski, despite the fact that, in his home country, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. Notwithstanding, or perhaps on account of, his brutally curtailed career — he died in 1957, just shy of the age of thirty — Wróblewski has attained the status of a national icon. With a mere ten years of active painting, spanning the decade of his twenties, he is a Polish peintre maudit, surrounded by a mythology as legendary as that of those better-known accursed artists of the 1950s, Jackson Pollock and Wols. His early death, which left his aesthetic project unfinished, has allowed him to remain a kind of cipher in the national imagination, a symbol of the unfulfilled promises of the years following the end of the Second World War and, rightly or wrongly, of resistance to the cultural and political impositions of the communist regime and the Soviet Union. A long list of exhibitions and publications in Poland, stretching from the time of his death to the present, attests to this status and the tenacity of the myth. A recent exhibition at

  1. 'Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto / Verso, 1948—1949, 1956—1957', Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 12 February—17 May 2015, curated by Éric de Chassey.

  2. 'To the Margin and Back — Andrzej Wróblewski', Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 10 April—15 August 2010, curated by Magdalena Ziółkowska.

  3. See Magdalena Ziółkowska (ed.), Andrzej Wróblewski: To the Margin and Back (exh. cat.), Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 2010.

  4. See Elena Filipovic, Joanna Mytkowska et al., Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955—1972 (exh. cat.), New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2011.

  5. J. Mytkowska, quoted in 'Andrzej Wróblewski, czyli eksport polskiej legendy', Gazeta Wyborcza, 5 September 2013, available at http://wyborcza.pl/1,75475,14554270,Andrzej_Wroblewski__czyli_ eksport_polskiej_legendy.html (last accessed on 24 June 2015).

  6. M. Ziółkowska, 'To the Margin and Back', in Andrzej Wróblewski: To the Margin and Back, op. cit., p.12. On this series, see also Noit Banai, 'Experimental Figuration in a State of Exception', in M. Ziołkowska and Wojciech Grzybała (ed.), Unikanie stanów pośrednich / Avoiding Intermediary States: Andrzej Wróblewski (1927—1957), Warsaw and Ostfildern: Fundacja Andrzeja Wróblewskiego and Hatje Cantz, 2014, pp.220—51.

  7. ric de Chassey, 'Introduction', in E. de Chassey and Marta Dziewańska (ed.), Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto / Verso, Warsaw: Museum of Modern Art, 2014, p.63.

  8. E. de Chassey, quoted in Agnieszka Sural, 'Wróblewski or the Unwillingness to Reconcile Contradictions: An Interview with Éric de Chassey' (February 2015), Culture.pl [website], 25 March 2015, available at http://culture.pl/en/article/wroblewski-or-the-unwillingness-to- reconcile-contradictions-an-interview-with-eric-de-chassey (last accessed on 24 June 2015).

  9. See Maria Poprzęcka, 'Po drugiej stronie lustra — Maria Poprzęcka o wystawie Wróblewskiego', Wyborcza Magazyn Świąteczny, 28 February 2015, available at wyborcza.pl/magazyn/ 1,143553,17496765.html (last accessed on 24 June 2015).

  10. On this comparison, see Serge Guilbaut, 'Squeezing "Modern Art" between Communism and Liberalism: The Art of Andrzej Wróblewski and Jean Hélion', in E. de Chassey and M. Dziewańska (ed.), Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto / Verso, op. cit., pp.81—94.

  11. A position most clearly articulated in Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, 'Readymade, Photography, and Painting in the Painting of Gerhard Richter' (1977), in Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000, pp.365—403.