DIFFERENT VOICES: NEW ART FROM POLAND
October 13, 1999 - January 2, 2000
Stager Gallery | Dr, Catherine Amidon, Exhibition Curator (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
Different Voices: New Art from Poland is based on the works of 20 women artists whose activity is related to the fiber arts lineage. The exhibition and catalog highlight the strength of their production, outline underlying themes, explore techniques and challenge the extent to which their participation in this lineage questions their relationship to "contemporary art."
All made since the end of the Soviet era, the art in this exhibition is contemporary. It is of our time and addresses issues relevant to the artists, but it is embedded in a tradition outside of the historically male-dominated spheres of painting and sculpture that carry different cultural and political traditions. Polish culture has historically been more solid than the country's geographic borders, engendering an art history that is often preoccupied with national identity. The works in the fiber art lineage embody the aesthetics of a different, quieter dialogue, defined by conscientious process and more reflective of feelings and individual experiences.
Although the work in this exhibition is current, modern and post-modern traditions have instructed the viewer to instinctively anticipate something from "contemporary art" other than art that is simply contemporary to the viewer. The term "contemporary art" suggests that the work plays off or responds to broader, internationalized issues. Gender, sexuality, the environment, human rights and censorship are among the most potent content in the established art world. Commodification and institutionalization of "contemporary art," by galleries, museums and universities, have insured the propagation of a certain kind of discourse around the content. The work in this exhibition is entering the mainstream, but still exists on the margin of those systems; hence it is read differently.
What are the issues that enframe our understanding of these works? Are media and message through the media the only challenge in naming these works products of "contemporary art?" What is the role of the lineage of weave and textile arts as women's work, craft or even domestic activity? These are some of the questions to be explored. And the story goes deeper, much deeper, into the body knowledge of the maker and gestures of the act of creation.
Body, process, gender, social product, spiritual vision and media exploration converge and diverge in the works in this exhibition, revealing new perspectives on a society moving through socio-politial changes, and altering human psyches in the process.