From 5 May–7 July 2022, Dep Art Gallery will be presenting the exhibition Stefan Gierowski–The sense of space, the sense of light, curated by Michel Gauthier in collaboration with the Stefan Gierowski Foundation, and dedicated to one of the greatest Polish artists of the post-World War II period who is exhibiting again in Italy after the 1968 Venice Biennale.
Retracing the periods and crucial points of Stefan Gierowski's (1925, Częstochowa) production from the 1950s to the 1980s, the exhibition project explores the Polish artist's relationship with the Italian Informal art through comparison with some works by Lucio Fontana, Mario Nigro, and Piero Dorazio, revealing analogies and similarities in their respective poetics although there was never any real contact.
The exhibition, thus, aims to reinterpret Gieroswki's figure and position within the abstract current of the 20th century in order to assert his role as key interlocutor for the Informal Art season at international level, bringing his works back to the prominent place they have been denied due to various contingencies and vicissitudes of history, first and foremost the Cold War.
In the text accompanying the exhibition, Michel Gauthier–contemporary art critic and curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris since 2010–refers to Gierowski's painting as 'a structure open at a single point onto infinite space', identifying a key feature of his work: giving depth to the pictorial surface. This desire to open up the pictorial field to a 'total' space, beyond the limited surface of the painting, is what unites the Polish artist's research with that pursued by authors such as Fontana, Nigro, and Dorazio in the same years in Italy. Each with their own peculiarities, they approached abstraction through the categories of space, light and colour to overcome the limits of the painting: Lucio Fontana's cuts, which open real gashes in the canvas; Mario Nigro's perspective grids, which give an illusion of spatial depth, a theatre of forces rather than forms; Piero Dorazio's chromatic textures, which extend the play of lines of different colours beyond the painting; Gierowski's light-colour, at first line and then pointillist nebulosity that opens up and loosens up the pictorial field.
Exhibited mainly in the Polish context and in Eastern Europe, Stefan Gierowski's work is back in Italy after more than 50 years since the last exhibition. In 1968, in the Polish pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the artist presented a set of paintings–including the work CLXXXI on display at the Dep Art Gallery. Not far from there, in the section Dall'informale alle nuove strutture, in the midst of a wide international selection, Lucio Fontana–who died before the close of the Biennale–proposed an Ambiente spaziale, and Mario Nigro showed his latest three-dimensional works. As Michel Gauthier writes: 'If Gierowski's painting had already been exhibited in Italy–in 1958, as part of 5 Pittori Polacchi d'oggi (Galleria del Milione, Milan; Unione Culturale-Palazzo Carignano, Turin; Galleria La Loggia, Bologna; Galleria L'Attico, Rome; Galleria d'Arte Minerva, Naples) and, in 1959, in Mostra di Pittura Polacca Contemporanea (Ala Napoleonica, Venice)–it was at this XXXIV Biennale that it was for the first time displayed in proximity to some of the most striking achievements of the European and especially the Italian avant-garde, not far from Fontana and Nigro'.
From the 1968 Venice Biennale, this exhibition features the work CLXXXI (1964), evidence of the 1960s research along with CXCVII (1966), an overlapping of two oblique forms that seem to extend beyond the limits of the canvas, and CCXXXV (1968), a two-coloured canvas, red and green, split by a vertical slit through which a white light emerges from the background.
In the mid-1970s, Gierowski's painting achieved textures generated by the crossing of lines of various colours, as in CCCLXXIII (1976), where a vertical rectangle of coloured lines floats on a black background, pierced by a horizontal strip of light. At the same time, Gierowski created compositions featuring a more pointillist and nebulous pictorial space: in CCCXCIV (1977) on a black ground, a myriad of white and blue dots gives rise to an optically unstable field. Early in that decade, as seen in CCLXXIII (1971), the greater or lesser density of the dots would create subtle variations in luminous and chromatic intensity. The pictorial field is no longer a surface, but a portion of space where light-colour is diffused: at the bottom of CCLXVI (1971) there are four horizontal bands, one above the other: a green, a red, a blue and a yellow one. Each stripe is wider than the one below it, so that the eye is drawn from the bottom upwards, and soon the yellow stripe opens up into a space that occupies the upper two-thirds of the canvas: a cloud of dots replaces the flat surface and mirrors the underlying chromatic sequence.
An example of lumino-chromatic spatialism that combines two of the paths of Gierowski's lumino-chromatism–the particle and the ray, or pointillism and the line–is CCCXCVIII (1977): in the centre of the canvas, a disk made up of a myriad of coloured particles–one might say a flattened surface subjected to some kind of nuclear revolution–and around it, fanning out, rays distributing the colours of the spectrum.
In the early 1980s, finally, the line that had been part of Gierowski's idiom in the 1960s made a similarly dynamic return. The exhibition shows three works from this period: CDLXXIX (1982), in which three lines stand out against a black ground, almost like a lightning; CDXCIX (1983), where two nearly vertical lines intersect, playing with light and shadow; and DXXI (1984), in which several white lines converge toward a central hole, like an eye opening onto a limitless nocturnal space. This latter work preserves the memory of a trip to Rome in 1961, during which Gierowski was struck by the 'oculus' of the Pantheon.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual catalog, Italian and English, with a critical text by Michel Gauthier and photographic documentation of the works on display.
Press release courtesy Dep Art Gallery.