Polish avant garde artist Włodzimierz Borowski

"Włodzimierz Borowski was one of the artists whose work reflects the major changes in Polish avant-garde art from the 1950s until the end of the 1970s. He was born in 1930 in Kurów in Lubelszczyzna, and died on December 31st 2008 in Warsaw. Between 1956 and 1959 he studied art history at the Catholic University in Lublin, where – even during the times of Stalinist propaganda – some philosophical freedom persisted.
During the 'thaw' period after 1956, he was a student of Jacek Woźniakowski, who was one of the first professors to organise lectures about contemporary international art. Influenced by these lectures, Borowski with some of his friends decided to pursue some activities leading to the self-education and animation of Lublin’s cultural milieu, fighting – as Piotr Majewski wrote – its inferiority complex. This initiative resulted in the creation of the Zamek group, which not only rose to fame among Polish modernists but also among the milieu of the Parisian Phases movement, joining late informal painting with the original concept of 'structural art'. The group’s work is still highly regarded by art critics today. Among the group’s members were the unjustly unappreciated Tytus Dzieduszycki (who later moved to France) and Jan Ziemski (who remained in Lublin and strengthened his position as one of the most interesting local artists). Apart from them, young art critics also took part in the group. Some of them, like Wiesław Borowski, Urszula Czartoryska, Jerzy Ludwiński, and Hanna Ptaszkowska, later turned out to be great organizers of artistic life in different venues. It’s thanks to them that the magazine Struktury (Structures) was established as an addition to the literary Kamena, and 11 issues were published between 1959 and 1961. Borowski himself, after graduating and leaving Lublin, worked for Warsaw galleries Foksal and Repassage, and years later also for the Labirynt and Labirynt 2 galleries in Lublin.

 When hidden light bulbs were switched on, the artons came to life. Pieces of glass and rubber snakes led the light outside, parts of the images switched on and off rhythmically. When artony were asleep, they seemed trivial, even trashy; it was the light and its rhythm that turned them into autonomous organisms. Even though these realizations by Borowski are considered an homage to Marcel Duchamp, it must be underlined that their physical status of 'a ready-made work of art' was less important than the final effect – the illusion of movement created by the changing light, reminiscent of the character of kinetic art.
To some extent these actions can be considered an important step towards going beyond the work itself – the beginning of environment. Later works by the artist can also be put in this context. Manifest lustrzany (Manilus) / Mirror manifesto (Manilus) was realized during the 1st Biennale of Spatial Art in Elbląg in 1965. 'It was a mirror',  wrote Ludwiński, 'on which the artist painted and put different decorations, but everyone could see themself in this collage'. The audience was multiplied, and the artist turned their attention to themselves: they were the object of an artistic process, while he disappeared.

 he following actions by Borowski were a continuation of these poetics, they also started to connect elements of environment, happening, conceptual art. In this regard the I Syncretic Show (presented in Lublin and in Warsaw in 1966) was especially significant: elements of a traditional art exhibition were connected to the arrangement of the gallery space and to a game played with the presence of the spectator. The artist displayed his early paintings, artony and mirrors in the gallery, thus creating a symmetrical whole enriched with containers filled with a chemical substance, out of which, during the vernissage, colourful 'plants' grew. This space was amplified by mirror reflections. The spectators and participants of the display became one of its parts, an inalienable element of the undertaking, which was rather an artistic performance than an exposition of ready-made, finished, unchanging works of art. The same structural elements were used during the Warsaw exposition, which became a sum of his work up to that point.
(Author: Małgorzata Kitowska-Łysiak, Art History Department KUL, March 2004, edited in January 2009, translated by N. Mętrak-Ruda, October 2015. culture.pl )

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