View of “Piotr Łakomy,” 2019. Background, from left: Fenix (03), 2012–19; Fenix (01), 2012–19; Fenix (04), 2012–19. Foreground: Fenix (02), 2012–19.

View of “Piotr Łakomy,” 2019. Background, from left: Fenix (03), 2012–19; Fenix (01), 2012–19; Fenix (04), 2012–19. Foreground: Fenix (02), 2012–19.

Piotr Lakomy

Avant-Garde Institute

Piotr Łakomy’s conceit for his solo exhibition “Fenix” was simple: What would it be like to share a studio with Edward Krasiński? Since the renowned Conceptual artist died in 2004 and Łakomy’s studio is nearly two hundred miles away, in the Polish city of Poznań, this meant creating a provisional and highly symbolic cohabitation at the Avant-Garde Institute, which organized the show in collaboration with Warsaw’s Galeria Stereo. Established by the Foksal Gallery Foundation the year of Krasiński’s death, the Avant-Garde Institute preserves his studio apartment and makes the collection of works it contains—which he arranged between 1988 and 2002—available to the public. Krasiński famously shared this studio in a nondescript tower block with, and eventually inherited it from, Henryk Stazėwski, a leading protagonist of the historical avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s, who, among other achievements, organized Kazimir Malevich’s first exhibition outside of the Soviet Union, at the Polonia Palace Hotel in Warsaw, in 1927. Stazėwski and Krasiński lived together for eighteen years, from 1970 to 1988, in the apartment that the elder artist had received from the Communist government. Their years of cohabitation and friendship are the stuff of legend. Tales abound of how protégés gathered in the apartment to hear Stazėwski hold forth on art and life; Krasiński marked the perimeter of the space with his emblematic blue masking tape at a uniform height of 130 centimeters, or approximately fifty-one inches.

Much like Francis Bacon’s studio, transported to Dublin and incorporated into the Hugh Lane Gallery, or Constantin Brancusi’s, left to the French state and reconstructed under the aegis of the Centre Pompidou, Krasiński’s appears to have been arrested in time. To breathe life into this myth, the Avant-Garde Institute incorporated an adjacent terrace and transformed it into a glass-walled exhibition pavilion. It was here that Łakomy confronted the dilemma of how to insert himself into such an eminent genealogy, with a spare intervention that consisted of transferring the four doors of his studio and setting them in precisely the same orientation to one another that they’d had in Poznań. His strategy was one of shifting between sharing elliptical references and willfully obfuscating them. The doors, propped vertically on large ostrich eggs filled with concrete (a Łakomy leitmotif), carried traces of their former environment, where they had also served as surfaces on which the artist collected notes, texts, and mind maps. A makeshift bamboo scale of the Modulor, Le Corbusier’s anthropomorphic system of proportions, which Łakomy has been using for many years, was still attached to one. Another had sketches by Frederick Kiesler, whose concept of an “endless house,” a typology for a biomorphic habitat in which curvilinear surfaces are uninterrupted by interior walls, has also served as an inspiration. Images from the artist’s personal life, preserved in epoxy resin, were accompanied by photographic documentation of performances in which he lay on his studio floor encased in a giant sheath of aluminum secured with industrial-strength fasteners. One door had holes the size of ostrich eggs bored into it, while others were decorated with honeycombed aluminum constructions. Transformed from functional objects into architectural displays, these doors became palimpsests for a potpourri of codes, winks, and nudges, ranging from high modernism to the mundane. 

Like Krasiński, Łakomy seems to have converted his studio into a living sculpture. While Krasiński’s entanglement between life and art remains embalmed in time, a remnant of Poland’s Communist past and a link to the prewar avant-garde, Łakomy’s is fragmented, un-homed, and ready to travel. Yet the disciple appeared equally entrapped in his contemporary habitus, smothered in and stifled by his materials and the necessity of being visible in order to exist as an artist. The burden of history also loomed large: In presenting multiple doors bereft of their fixed walls, Łakomy suggested that the dialogue with his deceased interlocutor may be endless and unmoored.