Edward Krasinski: Les Mises en Scene

: Function ereg() is deprecated in /includes/file.inc on line 649.

Edward Krasinski: Les Mises en Scene
Edited by Sabine Breitwieser
Generali Foundation, Wien

Reviewed by Robert C. Morgan

I see the work of Edward Krasinski emanating from a number of sources. Whether or not these sources are influences or affinities, I cannot say. As a critic living in New York, I see a certain nexus of linkages not only in terms of movement - both historical (constructivism) and contemporary (minimal and conceptual art) - but also in the work of several artists who come to mind as I weave through the pages of this superbly edited catalog by Sabine Breitwieser. The written contributions, including the interviews, statements, documents, and especially the two essays by Pawel Polit and Adam Szymczyk, suggest a great deal regarding the linear structure - in both its intuitive and structural aspects - of Krasinski's work. After a careful reading of this compendium, it would be impossible to deny the significance of Krasinski in the context of other leading figures in minimal and conceptual art on the international scene, especially in the sixties and seventies. There are so many profound and subtle interweavings between Krasinsky and other artists - ranging from Duchamp to Yves Klein, from Richard Serra to Robert Morris, from Francois Morellet to Sol LeWitt. There are more tangential affinities evoked in reference to Daniel Buren's photo-souvenirs, Lissitzky's PROUN paintings, Christo's Running Fence (1972-76), Manzoni's infinite line (1961), and John Baldessari's Alignment Series (1971). Even an artist like Franz Erhard Walther has a connection in an early black and white photograph, maybe from 1967, in which the artist's hands measure the exact dimensions of a photograph within the photograph. This kind of "manipulation" - as Krasinski often spoke of his work - is typical of the kind of illuminating pulsation of ideas that moved around the planet in the sixties and seventies. This was before the marketing of art began to obscure the communication of these telepathetic exchanges in the eighties - an unfortunate tendency that has accelerated up to the present moment.

This bilingual edition (German and English) of Krasinski's work is both impressive and informative, and thus affords the opportunity for the reader to become more engaged with the artist's chronological and thematic development. Krasinski's linear theme was present right from the beginning. Pawel Polit articulates the artist's "lightness" in contrast to the weight of art that descends on the viewer without any alternative access. The literalness that the American minimalists produced in the early sixties was clearly a necessary step away from the kind of formalism that previously held the reigns on a type of visual decision-making process. The minimalists made way for the conceptualists who opened the threshold to the universe of ideas, thus allowing a new content -- namely, the cultural and political revolution of the sixties - to enter into the vocabulary of contemporary art.

On of these artists, Sol LeWitt, who is often viewed as a crossover figure in that he participated in minimal strategies of form, while adhering to his own conceptual position, offered the following propositional statement:

"Logic may be used to camouflage the real intent of the artist, to lull the viewer into the belief that he understands the work, or to infer a paradoxical situation (such as logic vs. illogic). The ideas need not be complex. Most ideas that are successful are ludicrously simple."

While I find an agreement with the preceding statement, more or less, in relation to Edward Krasinski, the actual work of LeWitt has much less in common with Krasinski than the work of the French artist, Francois Morellet. The difference being that what LeWitt's work offers in terms of systemic strategy, Morellet surpasses through irony and humor. I believe the latter is more in keeping with Krasinski. Even so, I would find it difficult for any critic to show that Krasinski's consistency, as an artist was dependent on proving his art to be systemically clear. For the most past, art never proves anything. This was neither Krasinski's focus nor his problem. We can say, however, that he retained a certain concentration on thematic concerns, such as linear structure, momentum, neutrality in relation to objects, and the penetration of space. But none of these are related, in any direct way, to the human condition. Yet, for Krasinski, communication among human beings was always a fundamental concern - as much as it was earlier for Tadeusz Kantor.

I am interested in an earlier work of Krasinski, prior to his famous blue line, entitled "N…, (Interwencja 4, Zyg-Zag)" (1970), in which the artist positions a series of wooden sticks in a zig-zag relationship to one another along the corridor of his studio. The sticks are equal in measure and connected by hinges to one another. So as the artist distributes these linear elements down the hallway of his studio, he does so from one end to the other until the linear structure completes its destiny in relation to the artist's intention. As the painter Henryk Stazewski once said of Krasinski's work, it is capable of having a "changeable nature and the transformations of reality." If we accept Stazewski's endorsement, the systemic aspect of Krasinski's work is much less important than the permutations of change that his work offers to a given space. In "N…, (Interwencja 4, Zyg-Zag)," the fact that we see space differently in the photographic document is the result of the artist's dynamic transformation of his studio by way of this linear structure. In contrast to Katarzyna Kobro's focus on rectangular planes, Krasinski's spear (Dzida) from 1965 presents a linear momentum, a penetration through a porous space, which the critic Julian Przybos saw as "miraculous. For Przybos, Krasinski revealed a space being pierced - an instant within time - instead of space being constructed or assembled as with the constructivists, specifically the Unists of the twenties.

For Krasinski's exhibition in 1969, the famous Galerie Foksal in Warsaw distributed a poster with a photograph of the artist in the process of unwinding an entanglement of electrical wire. The accompanying on the poster phase read: "J'ai perdu la fin!!!" For many observers this was the catch-phrase for Krasinski's work even before his electric blue line came full-force into his vocabulary. The blue line began around the same time and consisted initially of blue tape, measuring 19 mm, adhered among trees and people around his home in Zalesie (near Warsaw). The tape was always positioned parallel to ground plane at 130 cm. After his early experiments with trees and people, the tape came into use with objects and constructions of various sorts. He often referred to photographic displacements of objects seen in the space where the blue line traversed. This linear declaration of a space that leveled everything to the same neutrality, to an ultimate flatness, became not only a signature for the artist, but a breakthrough in terms of what is today called installation art. The conceptual underpinnings of Krasinski are considerable. They are as infinite as they are intimate. Bringing these antipodes together in some finite resemblance is one of the great achievements of this artist, and one of the major bridges in showing the passage between modernism, including constructivism, and the new postmodernism with all its heterologies and ambiguous underpinnings.

Robert C. Morgan is a writer, artist, critic, art historian, and curator, who lives in New York. He holds a Master of Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in art history, and is Professor of Fine Art at Pratt Institute. He is the author of several books, including The End of the Art World (1998), Gary Hill (2000), and Bruce Nauman (2002). He was the first recipient of the Arcale award for international art criticism in Salamanca, Spain (1999).

Edward Krasinski: Les Mises en Scene
Edited by Sabine Breitwieser, Wien 2007.

Dietrich Karner, Foreword
Sabine Breitwieser, Edward Krasiński: Les Mises en Scene
Drole d'interview - Edward Krasiński in conversation with Eulalia Domanowska, Stanisław Cichowicz and Andrzej Mitan
Paweł Polit, Unbearable Porosity of Being
Adam Szymczyk, Deux ou trois choses que je sais de lui
Farewell to Spring - Anka Ptaszkowska in conversation with Joanna Mytkowska and Andrzej Przywara
Wiesław Borowski, Hanna Ptaszkowska, Mariusz Tchorek, An introduction to the general thoery of place (1966)
Historical Exhibition Views from 1963 to 2004
Generali Foundation Exhibition Views