Henryk Stażewski. Late Style

Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź
21.04. - 27.08.2023.

Curator: David Crowley

Henryk Stażewski. Late Style is a major exhibition exploring the life and work of one of Poland’s most significant artists. A pioneer in the European avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s, Stażewski enjoyed a full and rich ‘second’ career in post-war Poland that lasted more than 40 years until his death in 1988. His commitment to modernity and invention was constant through his life, exploring new ideas in his art well into his ninth decade, and establishing close friendships with younger artists, many of whom feature in this exhibition.

The challenges of being an artist in the People’s Republic mark the opening and the close of the exhibition. During the oppressive years at the end of the 1940s when culture was being shaped to fit an ideological mould, Stażewski searched for ways to express his commitment to abstract art with the task of national reconstruction. In the 1980s he aligned his activities with the cultural expressions of Opposition despite being an officially-lauded figure.

In the years between, Stażewski was a relentlessly inventive artist, always engaged with questions about the purpose and effects of art. In the 1960s, he explored contemporary ideas about embodied perception, creating ‘reliefs’ and ‘environments’ to encourage viewers to ‘feel’ their experience of seeing. In the 1970s his artwork had close affinities with the new currents of minimalism, conceptual art and text-art, and includes some of the most celebrated Polish artworks in the C20th including the ‘Infinite Vertical composition’, nine coloured beams of light projected by military lamps into the night-sky above Wrocław in 1970. Later in the decade, he explored the psychological effects of colour, connecting mental and physical interior spaces in his art experiments. 

Stażewski had a special talent for friendship, enjoying close relations with many other artists, as well as poets, writers and philosophers. His creative life and his private world came together in apartment-studio homes that he shared with other artists including Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz-Rogoyska and later Edward Krasiński, both of whom feature in the Henryk Stażewski. Late Style exhibition. Neo-avant-garde artists – associated with the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw and the Workshop of Film Form in Łódź – saw in Stażewski a living connection to the ‘authentic’ avant-garde of the past and a model of artistic autonomy in the present. The exhibition traces lines of artistic connection and camaraderie from Stażewski to Andrzej Dłużniewski, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Maria Stangret-Kantor, Barbara Kozłowska, Ryszard Waśko, Ludmiła Popiel, Zbigniew Gostomski, Andrzej Partum, Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, Stanisław Dróżdż and Zbigniew Dłubak.

Henryk Stażewski. Late Style draws deeply on the collections of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź as well as the National Museum in Warsaw and other private and public collections to present the most wide-ranging exhibition of Stażewski’s art for at least 30 years. It marks the ‘return’ of the artist to an institution, the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, that he played a key role in establishing as one of founders of the a.r. International Collection of Modern Art in the 1930s. Internationalism was always declared as a virtue by Stażewski even when Poland was closed off from the world by narrow-minded politics.   

The exhibition also features works which have rarely been shown before including the artist’s sketches for propaganda panels for the Regained Territories Exhibition in Wrocław in 1948, a copy of a 1915 Suprematist painting by Kazimir Malevich made by Stażewski in the 1960s, and a sublime ‘non-objective’ scheme that he created for an exhibition in the Warsaw apartment-gallery run by Andrzej and Emilia Dłużniewski in Warsaw during Martial Law in 1982.


Curator: David Crowley

Cooperation: Daniel Muzyczuk

Exhibition coordination: Martyna Dec

Editorial coordination: Martyn Kramek

Graphic design: Tomasz Kędzierski

Copy-editing: Soren Gauger

Communication coordination: Jakub Michał Pawłowski, Katarzyna Szklarek-Zarębska, Kinga Świtoniak, Adrianna Ziółek

Organized by Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź

Supported by

This exhibition has benefited from the support of the Complicated Past Towards Shared Futures research project, a partnership of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, National Gallery of Art in Lithuania, Art Museum in Malmo and OFF-Biennale Association in Budapest funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union (2020-23).