Critic's Guide: Warsaw (Friend of a Friend)

What to expect from the Condo-inspired gallery share opening in the Polish capital this weekend

BY Krzysztof Kościuczuk in Critic's Guides | 06 APR 18

Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan, Untitled (Black office chair), 2017, steel, leather, foam, 57 cm x 28 cm x 26 cm, installation view, Dortmunder Kunstverein, 2017. Courtesy: Union Pacific, London

Wschód hosting Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt and Union Pacific, London

Marking the first edition of Friend of a Friend, a gallery-share initiative in the Polish capital, Wschód, one of the co-organizers, hosts Neue Alte Brücke (Frankfurt) and Union Pacific (London). The show is held in a block of flats once inhabited by Mieczysław Lubelski – a sculptor who left behind a string of imposing commemorative monuments in Polish cities. Referencing this history, Wschód’s Piotr Drewko has furnished the exhibition space with works that echo a domestic set-up, including Will Benedict’s video doubling as a TV-set in the living room and a bench by Reece York. Also featured are miniature furniture sculptures by Ben Burgis and Ksenia Pedan. Among other items temporarily moved into this apartment-cum-studio are works by Puppies Puppies, Alfred Boman and Aleksander Hardashnakov; light is provided by Wschod’s own Mateusz Choróbski in the form of a massive LED lamp propped against the wall.

Witek Orski, Untitled (Touch screen), 2017, photograph. Courtesy: the artist and BWA Warszawa

BWA Warszawa hosting Antoine Levi, Paris & Hunt Kastner, Prague

On the ground floor of the same building, a different kind of meeting takes place. A set of meticulously constructed canvases by Piotr Makowski (Antoine Levi, Paris), which tease out real-life elements from abstract compositions, is juxtaposed with works of two artists whose practice is focused on dissecting the medium of photography and investigating it in three-dimensions. Jiří Thýn (Hunt Kastner, Prague) does this quite literally – by removing sections of his photographs, or adding layers, and reshooting them subsequently as well as creating sculptural objects that accompany his photos. The works by Witek Orski (BWA Warszawa) are equally meticulously planned, frequently existing as parts of three-dimensional objects and installations. Orski’s Rod 194 (2014), combining a steel rod and a photograph, stems from a meditation on a neologism coined by a Normandy peasant Pierre Riviere communicating his motivation for murdering his family in 1835, as reported in Michel Foucault’s 1975 book I, Pierre Rivière… In BWA Warszawa deconstruction is alive and kicking on many levels.

Sybren Renema, Discovery, 2017, digital print, 29 x 38 cm. Courtesy: the artist, LETO, Warsaw and Dürst Britt & Mayhew, The Hague

LETO hosting Dürst Britt & Mayhew, The Hague

LETO hosts Sybren Renema (Dürst Britt & Mayhew, The Hague) a Dutch artist, musician and author working in Glasgow whose interest spans fine arts, history, geography and the natural sciences. Here Renema presents a meditative video Discovery (2017) documenting the fictional journey of a small piece of wood from the Antarctic research vessel, the Royal Research Ship Discovery launched in 1901 from Dundee (where the original vessel is now on display), that drifts through the stratosphere. Having reached an altitude of 32,000 feet the object landed in the north of England. Featured in the Antarctic Pavilion in last year’s Venice Biennale, ‘the video’, LETO comments, ‘reflects a general human penchant for escapism’. A timely remark considering Poland’s political situation which shows no sign of improving despite the fact it’s not making the front pages of newspapers. The presentation is made complete with a neon sculpture quoting an utterance made by the British Royal Navy officer and explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott who upon reaching the South Pole found that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten him to it: ‘Great God! This is an Awful Place.’

Kasia Fudokowski, For how much longer must we improvise? II, 2011 steel, aluminium, gloss paint, 225 x 345 x 10 cm. Courtesy: Chertlüdde, Berlin

Foksal Gallery Foundation hosting Chertlüdde, Berlin & Jan Kaps, Cologne

Aside from sculptural works by Monika Sosnowska and Paweł Althamer, Foksal Gallery Foundation hosts Kasia Fudakowski and Petrit Halilaj (ChertLüdde, Berlin) along with Jean-Marie Appriou and Emanuel Rossetti (Jan Kaps, Cologne) for a show that revolves around objects and commonplace materials. Fudakowski’s For How Much Longer Must We Improvise? II (2011) consists of three gate sculptures inspired by countryside and suburban gates seen across Poland that are a display of ornament, and spontaneous design. Works by Emanuel Rossetti investigate abstract architectures that might materialize in the form of environments, images, or objects. While those by Petrit Halilaj include parts of his series shown at the 2017 Venice Biennale consisting of giant moth-shaped fabric sculptures. Made in Kosovo, with traditional rugs from the region and in collaboration with the artist’s mother, who sews the materials together to the silhouette of her son, they are a different take on the readily available.

Lukas Müller. Courtesy: Lucas Hirsch, Düsseldorf

Dawid Radziszewski hosting Lucas Hirsch, Düsseldorf

Dawid Radziszewski Gallery occupies a modest space on the ground floor of a hulking (even by local standards) block of flats. But Radziszewski inhabits this setting with skill: spilling out to the local square (to which Paweł Althamer has installed an entrance gate), occupying the front window, asking visitors to use a mobile phone to dial into the exhibition, or acting as host to artworks in a literal way (once, towards the end of a visit, he sat on a chair asking me to gently press his nose, opening his mouth to reveal a minuscule sculpture resting on his tongue. ‘Once in a while we have a serious show, of course, by our standards,’ Radziszewski quipped, commenting on the clash of a massive painting by Krzysztof Mężyk with works by Lukas Müller (Lucas Hirsch, Düsseldorf) incorporating everyday objects: a found TV set with a German theme park flyer plastered to the screen with wax.

Olaf Brzeski, A Copy of the Life of a Pipe, 2017, metal. Courtesy: the artist and Raster Gallery, Warsaw

Raster hosting Bernard, Zurich & Ermes-Ermes, Vienna

Raster is showing the Polish sculptor and draughtsman Olaf Brzeski coupling his objects that include illusionistic works resembling fish-tanks half-filled with metal and wood objects partially dipped in non-existent liquid. These are accompanied by works by the US-born and Vilnius-based Nick Bastis (Ermes-Ermes, Vienna), involving off-the-shelf products such as plastic grocery dividers, aluminium stock and glass beads in the austere, almost monochrome Grocery Divider Sound Emitters, 2018 where silvery vertical segments rest on a horizontal shelf – able to produce sound, as the name suggests. Canvases by the Italian Andrea Kvas (Galerie Bernhard, Zurich) are part of the artist’s ongoing practice of exploring painting that involves a range of materials that he manipulates and experiments by subjecting them to different processes. The fourth person in the mix is the ‘avant-garde anti-hero’ Genesis P-Orridge, present here with a string of framed Polaroids, heavy with nudity, which were taken from the 1990s to the current decade. 

Brian Dario, Foam, 2018, gloves. Courtesy: the artist and Reserve Ames, Los Angeles

Stereo hosting Crèvecoeur, Paris & Reserve Ames, Los Angeles

Stereo, one of Friend of a Friend’s co-organizers, hosts a mix of artists whose works tackle sculpture from an off-hand perspective. For Foam (2018) Brian Dario (Reserve Ames, Los Angeles) has assembled a stack of used work gloves collected from sculptors’ studios – offshoots of a practice which is also Dario’s own. June Crespo is present with one of her concrete casts of radiators that toy with the concepts of warmth and cold. Piotr Łakomy has created a hanging object, resembling a small tent, using his already-trademark honeycomb aluminium, here covered in dyed wax. Renaud Jerez (Crèvecoeur, Paris) has chosen to shift away from his sculptural work to create a series of figurative drawings, while Cezary Poniatowski appears as a painter-turned-sculptor with a black object with patches of artificial leather, nails and staples that brings to mind a surrealist upholsterer’s fantasy.

Florian Auer, Untitled (detail), 2018, digital print on transparent, pvc, led lights, 1.4 x 1.3 m. Courtesy: the artist, Piktogram, Warsaw, and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin

Piktogram hosting Future, Berlin/Mexico City, Lomex, New York & SVIT, Prague

Piktogram packs a crowd with Botond Keresztesi, Nora Turato from Future (Berlin/Mexico City) Robert Bittenbender, Joseph Geagan, Maggie Lee, Sean Mullins, Win McCarthy and David Flaugher from LOMEX (New York); Jiri Kovanda, Jimena Mendoza and Rudolf Samohejl from SVIT (Prague); and Piktogram’s Florian Auer, Krystian Truth Czaplicki and Paweł Olszczyński. Lomex and SVIT will prepare micro-curated shows while Piktogram will mingle with Future. This mix is difficult to fathom but highlights one of the greatest things about a gallery share – a creative energy that is often absent from an institutional or commercial setting. It kicks off with a performance by Jiri Kovanda on Saturday 7 April.

Friend of a Friend, Warsaw, runs from 7 – 28 April.

Main image: Witek Orski. Courtesy: BWA Warszawa

Krzysztof Kościuczuk is a writer and contributing editor of frieze. He lives between Poland and Switzerland.