Liverpool

Edward Krasiński, Retrospective K140 (detail), 1984, ten photographs mounted on plywood, blue tape. Installation view. Photo: Roger Sinek.

Edward Krasiński, Retrospective K140 (detail), 1984, ten photographs mounted on plywood, blue tape. Installation view. Photo: Roger Sinek.

Edward Krasiński

Tate Liverpool

Edward Krasiński, Retrospective K140 (detail), 1984, ten photographs mounted on plywood, blue tape. Installation view. Photo: Roger Sinek.

The oeuvre of Edward Krasiński (1925–2004), one of the most creative minds of the past century, is far from unfamiliar to me. Krasiński’s Warsaw apartment/studio was opened to the public in 2007 as the Avant-Garde Institute and quickly became a popular stop for art professionals visiting the city. His work was introduced to broader audiences in Poland through a retrospective at the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Kraków in 2008. Having visited both, I did not expect to find many surprises in Liverpool. Yet the exhibition, curated by Kasia Redzisz and Stephanie Straine, did amaze me, showing the artist as a maker not only of smart and playful works but also of their mode of display. As the interpretative panels suggested, his exhibitions were total scenarios.

The show (which travels to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, June 24–Oct. 15) was constructed chronologically. The opening sequence of works first exhibited at Galeria Krzysztofory, Kraków, in 1965 revealed the tongue-in-cheek quality of Krasiński’s art. For instance, the rectangular Untitled, 1962, consisted of a wooden background and a metal irregular grid to which the artist attached a Ping-Pong ball with a black pupil-like spot painted in its middle. This artificial eye stared at me discreetly while I was discovering other playful details of Krasiński’s work, such as the edges of his Composition in Space, 1964, painted red to highlight the dynamic character of the work. The edges seemed to be glowing, as if somebody just took the pieces, burning hot, from the stove. Krasiński also used red in some of his “Spears,”1964–65, a series of works exhibited in the next room. To increase the sense of movement, Krasiński suspended these works on wires to create an illusion that the work floats through the air.

Some of the best-known images documenting Krasiński’s “Spears” and their performative potential were taken by Eustachy Kossakowski. They were absent from the show, as the curators made a conscious decision to downplay archival materials in order to focus our attention on the objects themselves. But photography featured as a component of some other works. For instance, in Untitled, 1968, originally exhibited that year at Galeria Foksal in Warsaw, the artist included a black-and-white picture documenting himself exhibiting at Krzysztofory in 1965. The photograph was glued to the side of a small black wooden box, the work’s central element. In the photo, Krasiński holds a rope. Attached to the box is a metal rod that seems to sprout out of the photograph, continuing the rope held by the artist in the photo into real space. Documentary photography also features importantly in Retrospective K140, 1984, a group of ten black-and-white images mounted on plywood with a line of blue Scotch tape running across them. Krasiński introduced blue tape to his practice in 1969. It was an artistic gesture, a form of signature, allowing him to turn an everyday object or situation into art. We see selected works by the artist in the photographs; some of them, such as Untitled, 1968, can also be seen in the show. Therefore, in the case of this particular work, the application of tape seems to manifest the artist’s readiness to reinvent his past actions by transmuting them into a new body of work. Such self-referentiality emerged more vividly in this exhibition than it has in any of the previous posthumous exhibitions of Krasiński’s oeuvre.

Sylwia Serafinowicz