Critics’ Picks

Cezary Poniatowski, Burrow, 2020, pleather, upholstery foam, staples, twigs, blockboard, wood, 49 5/8 x 50 x 11 3/8''.

Cezary Poniatowski, Burrow, 2020, pleather, upholstery foam, staples, twigs, blockboard, wood, 49 5/8 x 50 x 11 3/8''.

Warsaw

Cezary Poniatowski

Galeria Stereo
ul. Bracka 20b
October 1–November 7, 2020

Hung low around an assortment of dollhouse sculptures and other objects, Cezary Poniatowski’s black and brown pleather reliefs command the room in his exhibition “Welcome to Itchy Truths.” Poniatowski stands in a lineage of artists who work against painting’s norms, dismantling the integrity of its flat surface to enhance its fetishistic status. The effect recalls Steven Parrino’s jet-black misshaped canvases (the artists also share a palpable penchant for the noise-music scene and its gothic sensibilities), but here Poniatowski leaves canvas and paint behind, constructing his monochrome works from pleather, wood, and cheap household supplies.

His materially driven abstraction takes cues from Soviet-era architecture, traces of which remain in his native Poland. He stuffs his works with foam used for soundproofing in Communist social housing, shaping it into bulging, angular forms fastened to a board with screws and crudely secured staples. In so doing, Poniatowski also stuffs abstraction with the potential for meaning, tarnishing its formalist sanctity, getting under its skin.

In Domestication, 2020, black pleather is stretched taut around jagged blockboard pieces arranged in a rectangle. Two black rubber medicine balls are wedged into gaps between them, while a crumpled carpet encroaches on the picture plane from behind. Its twisted folds are almost writhing. The textured pleather shapes and painted twigs in Phantom Pleasure, 2020, straddle the line between botched horror upholstery and hardcore aesthetics. As the title suggests, it’s somehow seductive.

In other words, pick your fetish. It’s in there somewhere.