Critics’ Picks

View of “Map,” 2014.



Zachęta National Gallery of Art
Pl. Małachowskiego 3
November 30–February 9

Curated by Joanna Kordjak-Piotrowska, “Map” comprises numerous photographs, sketchbooks, documentary films, and paintings that take up the political atmosphere of Poland between 1947 and the end of the 1950s. The works address the nation’s creative dialogue with Western Europe, particularly France, as well as with the Middle East and Asia, shedding light on Cold War alliances between Communist countries and their sympathizers. What’s more, the presentation of these works reconstructs often nonobvious and changeable paths of intellectual exchange after World War II.

On view are Polish artist Aleksander Kobzdej’s politically charged sketches created in 1954 in Vietnam at the end of the First Indochina War. These significantly depart from the socialist realism and art informel styles that the painter is most associated with. Here, Kobzdej acts less as an artist and more as a reporter, depicting the signposts of an ongoing war. Kordjak-Piotrowska has juxtaposed these works with photoreportages and films by other artists. One notable example is Roman Artymowski’s slightly overexposed footage of 1960s Bagdad. Artymowski spent time in the city as lecturer at the University of Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts between 1959 and 1967, during which he made this particular work that, like Kobzdej’s, illustrate the relationship between travel and image production. Accompanied by a selection of Parisian sketchbooks from the late 1940s, which show the migration of ideas in and out of the Iron Curtain, the exhibition acts as a rhizome of references that substantially nuances conceptions of an artmaking system that might otherwise be perceived as myopic.