Critics’ Picks

Ewa Ciepielewska, untitled, 1984, watercolor on paper, 40 x 28 1/2”.

Warsaw

“Psychopaper”

Piktogram
ul. Kredytowa 9/ 26 (entrance from pl. Dąbrowskiego 8)
September 27 - November 30

Curated by Michał Woliński, “Psychopaper” presents over fifty works on paper made in Poland in the 1980s, with an emphasis on pieces that embrace experimentation and psychedelic imagery. Near the gallery’s entrance is a series of black-and-white photographs titled “Nut,” 1985, by Zbigniew Libera, which depict small handwritten notes that someone was anonymously and systematically gluing to bus stops and electric poles in Łodz. This stranger’s subversion was so marginal that it remained unnoticed by authorities. The work is an apt opening for a show that looks at rarely exhibited works on paper—a marginalized practice by the featured artists here, who are mostly known for their multimedia works as members of various collectives. For instance, a series of untitled works from 1987 by Leszek Knaflewski, a member of the group Koło Klipsa, brings to life, using charcoal, pencil, crayon, and watercolor, imaginary figures with displaced hands, legs, and eyes staring directly at the viewer. Knaflewski, who is right-handed, made these drawings with his eyes closed and with his left hand, a process that brings to mind the Surrealist method of automatic drawing.

All of the work here originated during or after 1981, the year that martial law began in Poland. They are often in poor condition, which gives testimony to the extreme shortage of material in the 1980s, including quality paper, as well as to the history of their reception in the subsequent years. They represent an explosive mixture of politics and underground culture, of art merged with music (punk, reggae, New Wave). Pop references and politics interweave in a literal way in an untitled stencil by Bożena Grzyb and Paweł Jarodzki, members of Wrocław-based group LUXUS, which juxtaposes a silhouette of Bruce Lee with another of Ronald Reagan. Other works by LUXUS members, such as untitled watercolors by Ewa Ciepielewska and pencil drawings by Ryszard Grzyb from Gruppa, depict a menagerie of half-human figures. Despite being deeply rooted in the political context, they are also a leap into the little-known realm of 1980s-era Polish artists’ studios.