The Wild West: History of the Wrocław Avant-garde, exhibition, 2015
The exhibition Wild West. The History of Avant-garde Wroclaw was a synthetic presentation of the artistic, film, music, architectural, and theatrical avant-garde in the developing capital of the Lower Silesia region from the mid-1960s to contemporary times. The curator of this huge exposition of over 500 objects was Dorota Monkiewicz, at that time a director of Wrocław Contemporary Museum. First, the exhibition was presented in the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (a partner institution of MMW for the whole project), then in Kunsthalle in Košice, Museum in Bochum, and in the Modern Art Museum in Zagreb. There were numerous events accompanying the exhibition, such as a concert of the Kormorany group – a legendary band from Wroclaw’s underground of the 1980s, famous for their performative, improvised shows which were often organised in some surprising places, like a swimming-pool or the railway station.
The „Wild West” mentioned in the title is a reference to the image of Wroclaw seen by the post-war new-comers. Accordingly to the Nazi decision, at the end of war the city was transformed into Festung Breslau, which was accompanied by demolishing whole quarters of buildings, both those historic and those newly built. After the liberation, the ruins were gathered and used largely for restoring Warsaw, and for constructing the proletarian Nowa Huta near Krakow. However, for many years Wroclaw was left with the empty spaces in the city centre, where new building has not yet been built. In the eyes of new-comers, instead of the city, the “wild fields” emerged – which had to be rebuilt. The artists played a crucial role in reviving Wroclaw after the war and filling the city with the modern, Polish identity.
Already in the 1960s to Wroclaw had arrived two key figures: a director Jerzy Grotowski, a creator of the Laboratory Theatre, and the critic and art theoretician Jerzy Ludwiński, an inventor of the Current Art Museum, who soon started to run the Under Mona Lisa Gallery. Around Ludwiński a circle of the conceptual artists was formed, with the creators such as: Jan Chwałczyk, Wanda Gołkowska, Jerzy Rosołowicz, Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, Natalia LL, and Andrzej Lachowicz. At the same time, thanks to the effort of Stanisław Dróżdż, the concrete and visual poetry started to develop in Lower Silesia region. The theatre experiments were run not only by Grotowski, but also by Helmut Kazjar and Kazimierz Braun, while Bogusław Litwiniec led the kalambur theatre and the Open Theatre Festivals. Music scene was developed by jazz and psychedelic groups which performed at the prestigious Jazz by Odra festival; since the 1980s the rich independent music developed. Architects like Stefan Müller, Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak, Witold Lipiński, and Krzysztof Meisner created surprising, visionary projects, some of which were just the utopic visions, but some were actually executed and stayed in the Wroclaw’s landscape forever; the first of mentioned architects was also an organiser of the Terra International Exhibition of Intentional Architecture, which was visited by people from all over the world. In the artistic underground the Luxus group operated and the mass street happenings were performed by the Orange Alternative.
This huge, diversified, and multimedia overview of avant-garde streams and tendencies, developing in Wroclaw within a few post-war decades, succeeded in reminding about numerous figures and their heritage, including Jerzy Ludwiński, whose Archive had been opened in the Contemporary Museum two years earlier. After the exhibition a guide was left – a richly illustrated catalogue published under the same title.
Starting year of event
Author(s) of this page
- Stanczyk, Xawery