Gallery 2
January 14 - February 27, 2000

sculptures, drawings, 
architectural projects
--- Curator: Elzbieta Grabska
--- Co-operation: Marta Pejda

Pixel Mountain
Pixel MountainPixel Mountain
"Pixel Mountain" 1987 project on height
(from left) 600m, 390m, 180m

Piotr Kowalski
Piotr Kowalski next to "Sculpture Flottante",
Orleans-la-Source (1976)
Born 1927 in Lvov, Ukraine (then, part of the Republic of Poland), Piotr Kowalski has become a French artist of Polish origin. After he left his native Poland in 1946, he lived for some time in Sweden, France, the USA, and Brazil. Already a graduate (1952) from the faculties of architecture and hard sciences at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA, Kowalski returned to Europe - to Paris, where he worked as an architect. His interest in sculpting dates back to as early as 1950's, when he combined it with town-planning, experimental architecture and public-space art (his first open-air projects were conceived in late fifties).

In 1961, he won First Prize in an international contest as a designer of a railway station in Tunis. The same year, he prepared his first individual exhibition, at the Maison des Beaux-Arts, Paris. In the following years, he took part in a dozen-or-so art projects per year, including individual and group exhibitions held at most prestigious galleries or museums all over the world. Besides, he won a number of prizes of considerable import in architecture and town-planning, as well as took advantage of a series of scientific or artistic scholarships or grants.

In 1968, Kowalski represented France at the 34th Venice Biennial. In 1978-85, he worked as a Rockefeller Foundation grant-holder at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT. There, he run an independent faculty which was granted means to pursue scientific research and artistic activity. In 1980's, he toured South Korea and Japan, which was connected with exhibiting projects and borne fruit also in the form of a series of town-planning designs for Tokyo and Kyoto; on those, Kowalski has been working until now (the projects are presented in the form of models and drawings). Ever since 1970's, he has been preparing numerous open-air projects, town-planning arrangements and giant sculptures located in urban areas of France, Austria, Switzerland, the USA, Denmark, Germany and Japan, to name the major locations. Among the best-known ones are Porte Sud and the Pascal Square, i.e. a town-planning/sculpture complex situated at the famous Paris quarter of La Défense, the Axe de la Terre ('The Axis of the Earth') - an 'astronomical' sculpture located at a roundabout in Marne-la-Vallée, and Thermocouple - a 'double monument' at the Danube river bank in Linz, Austria, whose individual components react to changing temperatures of the environment by increasing or decreasing their reciprocal positioning angle. Our present exhibition shows photographs of these as well as of other objects realised in public areas (Room 1).

SquarePascal Square
La Defense, Paris, 1986-90

Kowalski's interests both as an artist and architect, mathematician, bio-physicist and town-planner, focus around the liquid borderline between science and art: to his mind, both of these domains equally serve to interpret the reality. As an artist, he searches for scientific solutions taken from optics, kinetics, mathematics, mathematical logic, analytic geometry. The sphere of the visual or the 'artistic' gets linked with theory, philosophy, idea-centred approach, whereas the former not infrequently results from the latter. Art is a sort of challenge, one provoking to transgress the borders of already-tested technological possibilities. Therefore, Piotr Kowalski might be named artist as well as (re)searcher or inventor.

In an interview, he mentioned that science was a culture of our contemporary period and that he himself, as an artist, could not possibly figure out being a scientifically illiterate man himself. This is obviously not a postulate of how to direct modern art in general; rather than that, it is an attempt at establishing a unity of apparently separate areas which, in fact, cannot practically get separated against this very physical world and literal reality. Reality is, for Kowalski, a series of connections or relations between facts and phenomena; nothing is abstracted out of this world, and nothing may exist [in it] on its own.

Shrunken Pieces - Anti sphere
"Shrunken Pieces - Anti sphere"
In this sense, for instance, perception of a work of art (or, of any other object) is a result of some phenomena appearing on the borderline of hard sciences, in themselves being nothing else beyond a description of basic rights of nature, after all. Ensuing from this stand-point is a conviction that natural phenomena are foreseeable; 'natural' is meant here colloquially, i.e. such phenomena as exist without interference from humans or technology yet are liable to mathematical calculation and, accordingly, to being foreseeable and reproducible.

Such a comparison between sciences and culture of the modern world is characteristic to Kowalski's art as well as to his differentiated interests, an attitude referred to by Jean-Christophe Bailly as one of 'total thinking'. Beyond this, we can discern a fascination with the world of Heraclitus' ideas, with the inner nature of reality as experienced daily, wherein any and all phenomena are components of a bigger whole, every single thing exerts an impact on all the others and conversely, and the world we live in is being co-created.

One has therefore to point to a tradition to which the unique creative personality of Piotr Kowalski seems to refer, namely that of great scientists-philosophers of the past ages: Descartes, Pascal, Newton, ones whom he would himself willingly evoke by devoting certain of his projects to their memorable names.

[Text by M. Pejda]

The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle
Al.Ujazdowskie 6, 00-461 Warsaw, Poland
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