Critics’ Picks

Alina Szapocznikow, Sculpture-Lampe VI, 1970, polyester resin, metal, electrical wiring, 22 x 13 x 14".

Alina Szapocznikow, Sculpture-Lampe VI, 1970, polyester resin, metal, electrical wiring, 22 x 13 x 14".

New York

Alina Szapocznikow

Andrea Rosen Gallery
544 West 24th Street
November 10–December 5, 2015

While a recent museum retrospective has brought international attention at last to Alina Szapocznikow, this condensed estate show of her figurative sculpture provides a must-see coda. A fascinating artist of the post-WWII avant-garde, Szapocnikow is known for her distressed corporeal forms, but there’s a playful aspect to her oeuvre, too, evident in the group of remarkable lamps that fill the gallery’s second room.

The lumpy phallic base of Sculpture-Lampe, 1970, holds up an enchanting—and unsettling—cobbled-together head. A breast with a red nipple forms the back; in front, a mouth and chin are affixed to a single, oversized blue iris (no pupil). Made from tinted polyester resin, the glowing head houses a light bulb. It’s capped by a peach umbrella-shape that resembles both the roughly excised skin of a human knee and a mod interpretation of a Tiffany lampshade. Sculpture-Lampe VI, from the same year, also features a mouth-breast graft—this one emerges from a curved stem that sprouts from a pair of leaves the shape of Tinker Bell’s wings and the color of her dress.

Though Szapocznikow’s work is more expressive and less light-hearted than our stereotypic image of Pop, she was a kind of post-Surrealist Pop artist, using industrial methods and materials (expanding polyurethane foam as well as the aforementioned resin) to reflect and critique the fetishistic tropes of advertising and consumer display. But, as a Polish Jew who survived a childhood in concentration camps working alongside her physician mother, Szapocznikow made work that is as much about mass extermination as it is mass production.