Alina Szapocznikow
Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972
10 September 2011–8 January 2012

9 September 2011, 18:00–21:00

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre
Avenue Van Volxemlaan 354
1190 Brussels, Belgium

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre opens its season with the premiere of an expansive solo exhibition of Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow (1926–1973). This major event, the fruit of an exceptional collaboration initiated by WIELS and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, is one of the first large-scale surveys of the artist’s work outside of Poland and concentrates in particular on her late period from 1955 to her untimely death in the early ’70s, at age 47. Those years are best described as her experimental period, and it is precisely the artist’s shift to the use of new materials and forms that is the crux around which the exhibition is built.

As a sculptor who began working in the post-war period in a rather classical, figurative manner, Szapocznikow’s progressive development towards a conception of sculpture as an imprint not only of memory but of her own body left behind a legacy of provocative objects—at once sexualized, fragmented, vulnerable, humorous, and political—that still sit between Surrealism, Nouveau Realisme, and Pop Art. Her tinted polyester casts of her lips and breasts transformed into quotidian objects like lamps or ashtrays, her poured polyurethane forms, and her construction of sculptures that incorporate photographs remain as remarkably idiosyncratic and contemporary today as they were when they were first made.

Although she was already quite early in her career well known in Poland where her work has been highly influential since, her oeuvre remains ripe for art historical re-examination. Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972 comes at an auspicious moment when international interest in her work has blossomed, major public collections have added her to their permanent collections, and new publications in English on the artist are forthcoming. The exhibition will travel to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (February 5–April 29, 2012), the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (May 19–August 5, 2012), and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (October 7, 2012–January 28, 2013) after the WIELS showing, which will be the only European venue for the exhibition.

The exhibition will feature more than one hundred artworks, privileging all of the media Szapocznikow worked in, including photography and drawing alongside her primary practice of sculpture and object-making, but also giving place to archival documents and other preparatory and documentary material. Involving loans from private and public collections, from institutions in Poland and abroad, this exhibition will endeavour to introduce and contextualize the artist’s work to a broader international audience, all while revealing its resolute contemporaneity and continuing relevance to discussions of sculpture-making today.

Curated by Elena Filipovic & Joanna Mytkowska.

Exhibition organized by WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, and the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Traveling to the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio.

Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972, major catalogue accompanying the exhibition published by The Museum of Modern Art and Mercatorfonds in English and French editions, with a Dutch supplement available.

At WIELS, the complementary program for the exhibition includes:
Guided tour by the curators
Conversation about the artist with Luc Tuymans
Performance/guided tour by artist Paulina Olowska and musician Anna Zaradny
Lecture by Jan Verwoert
Book launch of Awkward Objects: Alina Szapocznikow with lecture by Griselda Pollock

The WIELS exhibition is presented in the frame of I, CULTURE, the International Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency coordinated by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in cooperation with the Polish Institute in Brussels. I, CULTURE is the International Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency and the largest programme promoting Polish culture abroad ever implemented by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Additional support for the exhibition has been provided by the Polish Institute in Brussels and BNP Paribas Fortis.

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre
Avenue Van Volxemlaan 354
1190 Brussels, Belgium
T +32 (0)2 340 00 50
Nocturne, every 1st & 3rd Wed of the month

Foto: Alina Szapocznikow, “Petit dessert I” (Small Dessert I), 1970–71. Kravis Collection. © The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow/Piotr Stanislawski.