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Wanda Czełkowska

Poland
1930-2021
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“The circles aren’t the goal, they are a result.”

photo: Waclaw Nowak

Wanda Czełkowska was born in 1930 in Brześć, Poland, she studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, graduating in 1954. During her studies, she collaborated with renowned modernist Polish sculptor Xawery Dunikowskion the Monument to the Liberation of the Region of Warmia and Mazury (1954) in Olsztyn. Her style became increasingly abstract, and, throughout the following decades, Czełkowska worked a lot with monumental drawings on canvas that she treated in terms of sculpture (Bird 1978, Elegy 1990) and installations (such as The Evening Full of Grains, 1993).

In 1963, she had her first solo show at the Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow, a venue commonly used by the Second Kraków Group (which Czelkowska joined in 1967) to exhibit works of its members. This collective was an avant-garde group continuing the tradition of the First Kraków Group (1933-37). As part of her first solo show in Krzysztofory, one of the works which Czełkowska presented was the sculpture Players (1963). The artist likes to present this sculpture as figurative “primitivism”, in a similar vein with her other sculptures from the early 1960s. Currently living and working in Warsaw, she is a regular guest and laureate at major international art fairs, while her works are shown around the world.

Head, 1972/2018

sculpture, cast in plaster, 71 x 45 x 45 cm

A notable precursor to the distorted head-like shapes of the Heads series (made between 1964 and 1972) is the style of the massive head-shaped monuments of Easter Island. This work, Head 1972/2018, also dates from this period of her work. When asked whether her sculptures depicted the heads of women or men, she answered that they portray “a third gender”. From the late 1970s onwards, her monumental works have been mostly characterised by minimalism, but her career of five decades has shown many connections with neo-primitivism and the abstraction of the 1960s, including even extreme brutalist deconstructivism.

Untitled, 1992

charcoal and tempera on canvas, 90 x 90 cm