Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alina Szapocznikow's "My American Dream" at Broadway 1602

Installation view of "Alina Szapocznikow: My American Dream," at Broadway 1602. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

In her superb Brooklyn Rail review of Broadway 1602's current Alina Szapocznikow show, Carrie Moyer provides a succinct synopsis of the Szapocznikow's life, which I will now more or less paraphrase here: Szapocznikow was born in 1926 in Poland, survived stays in three concentration camps, represented her homeland at the 1962 Venice Biennale, and died in 1973 at the age of 46, having put together a startlingly diverse and original body of work. (Yes, those are lamps in the photograph above.)

Alina Szapocznikow, Stele, 1968. Polyester, polyurethane foam, 79 x 46 x 69 cm.

Broadway 1602's second show of the Szapocznikow's work (which appeared in Gladstone's "Mass Ornament" show and MoMA's "Mind and Matter: Alternative Abstractions, 1940s to Now" this summer), "My American Dream" brings together the artist's messy, oozing, fabric assemblages; her sleek sculptures of cast body parts (legs, lips, and breasts) that she often turned into lights; and correspondence for unrealized (and, perhaps, unrealizable) large-scale projects.

Alina Szapocznikow, Le Monde, 1971. Polyester, newspaper, 50.5 x 34 x 9 cm.

The highlight of that last type of work is the piece that lends the exhibition its title, in which Szapocznikow proposed building a double-size Rolls Royce out of pink marble for display at Documenta V (1972). She wrote to a representative at the automaker and to Documenta director Harold Szeeman, who both responded politely, though declined to extend her any funding. (The actual back and forth between Szapocznikow and the patrons she solicited is, at times, hilarious, and well worth reading at the gallery.)

Alina Szapocznikow, proposal for My American Dream, 1970

"My American Dream," to be blunt, is a relentlessly thrilling show. The sculptures look like they could have been made this year, and the conceptual issues Szapocznikow's projects raise are a good two decades ahead of their time. The exhibition also implicitly asks a terrifying and exciting question: How many more Alina Szapocznikows are still hiding out there, awaiting rediscovery?

Alina Szapocznikow, Sein en chiffon vert (Fetysz II), 1970-71. Assemblage: polyester, fabric 36 x 50 x 31 cm.

Alina Szapocznikow, "My American Dream"
Broadway 1602
Through December 11, 2010
1181 Broadway, floor 3
New York, New York