Exposition Art Blog: Marek Oberlander - Polish Painting & Culture

Marek Oberlander - Polish Painting & Culture

Born 1922 in Szczerzec near Lvov, died 1978 in Nice, France.
Oberländer - along with Jan Dziedziora, Jacek Sienicki, and Elżbieta Grabska - was an initiator and among the most active organizers of the "Against War, Against Fascism" Polish National Exhibition of Young Visual Arts, held in July of 1955 at Warsaw's Arsenal just before the political "thaw" of 1956. The idea for the exhibition was first put forward at a social gathering held at his small apartment in the Okolnik district of Warsaw. Stalin had died two years earlier and hopes were high for ideological change. It was in this atmosphere that a group of young painters, supported by an equally young art historian and critic, decided to organize an exhibition made up of works created during outside of the official art world during the Socialist Realist period and subsequently hidden away in private studios for years. Once assembled, the exhibition was viewed as a protest against both Socialist Realism and Colorism - a movement that had ruled Polish art after World War II, reigning especially strong in academic circles (.....) Throughout this time he was also painting and drawing, creating numerous works in which he gradually cast off his original brutality and focused on creating a more intimate mood. These were largely portraits that emphasized the psyche of his models, though he also painted genre scenes and still lifes and at times turned towards abstraction. In general, his works of this period were more variegated than previously. With time he began to deform the human figure more and more radically, though he retained it as a clear symbol of individual experience (evident in his ink and gouache portraits of 1957-58, among them, the Garbate / Hunchbacks series). Through constant modification of the human silhouette, he consistently and (what is more important) successfully strived towards a maximal synthesis of form. He drew inspiration from the world of nature; the unreal, sometimes stylized, elongated shapes of insects became a model for his approximately drawn, over-simplified, highly condensed, vertically oriented female figures (Sylwetki / Silhouettes, 1961-63). The vibrating, unsettled components of these compositions (a spider web-like tangle of thin lines, unrestrained splashes and drippings of semi-translucent paint) strengthened their disquieting, angst-ridden aura. Oberländer's "torsos" and "skeletons" were often compared to Jan Lebenstein's Figury hieratyczne / Hieratic Figures and Figury osiowe / Axial Figures, though this seems somewhat unjustified. Lebenstein's compositions seem more ostentatiously and tangibly aggressive, while the drama in Oberländer's figures derives from their hidden, inner life. In spite of this, the works of both artists evoke associations with Wols's Tachiste drawings of seemingly anatomical assemblages.(Author: Małgorzata Kitowska-Łysiak, Art History Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, Faculty of Art Theory and the History of Artistic Doctrines, December 2001. culture.p )

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