New York

Vladimir Zakrzewski

Vanderwoude Tananbaum Gallery

Of all the major styles of art from the early 20th-century, the one that seems to have aged the best and lost the least pictorial punch is Constructivism. Constructivism remains a vital tradition that can still inspire abstract art of the highest quality, as shown by this exhibition featuring the recent work of Vladimir Zakrzewski.

Zakrzewski, originally from Poland, has lived in the United States since 1981. His work displays authentic powers of invention, while it expresses the same love of pure form that flowered in his native country in the 1920s and ’30s as an offshoot of Russian Constructivism. Polish nonobjective art of that period was based primarily on the principle of conflicting forces and took its cue not from the materialist-oriented school of Russian Constructivism but from the mystical perspective of Suprematism, the program developed by Kasimir Malevich, who wielded an enormous amount of influence over Polish Constructivism.

Zakrzewski takes the elements of the classic Constructivist/Suprematist vocabulary—bars, circles, squares, triangles, diagonal lines—and makes them dance to a very personal tune, with decidedly emotional overtones. Each painting is filled with an abundance of these elements, orchestrated in many contrapuntal layers. Untitled (8/21), 1983, the earliest painting in the exhibition, is a square composition of geometric forms outlined in white against a black ground, the surface of which appears to sway before one’s eyes. The individual forms here give the illusion of simultaneously pulling back and pushing forward, an effect heightened by the subtle modeling of the outlines and by the gestural brushstrokes visible in the ground. In Untitled (1/4), 1987, Zakrzewski investigates the issue of illusion in abstraction through the opposition and interdependence of color and form. Colored shapes of various sizes, including squares, rectangles, bars, circles, and zigzags, cover the surface of the canvas and create a mobile space in which scale and depth function as dynamic elements, producing a sense of boundless energy and of ceaseless movement. Zakrzewski’s works reveal how the aspirations for a universal art based on pure form, which led artists such as Malevich to enter the realm of nonobjective expression away from any direct imitation of reality, continues to inspire.

Ronny Cohen