An artist, Theoretican, Animator of artistic life
Born in 1947
Zdzisław Sosnowski, Polish artist, theoretician and animator of artistic life. He was born on November 18, 1947 in Ignacewo, near Kalisz. Recognized mostly thanks to his avant-garde films and photographs, a painter by profession, who works within the range of performance art, experimental sound realization and images generated by computer. In the field of art he was also enlisted as an organizer of numerous exhibitions and a director of the Współczesna Gallery and the Studio Gallery in Warsaw. Since 1982 he has been living and working in France.
Eccentric, cynical and pragmatic person, for years he was overlooked by the critical discourse, Sosnowski is one of the leading representatives of 1970’s Neo-avant-garde in Poland. The artist studied at the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Wrocław, between 1969 and 1974. He graduated with a diploma in painting from the studio of docent Alfons Mazurkiewicz and in television broadcasting from the studio of Professor Leszek Kaćma. Then his first film recordings were made, such as Scaling of fish (1970), Simple activities (1971/1972), Eating (1972). Balancing on the edge of conceptual experiment, they were limited to the recording of the simplest actions, “the meaning (of which) was to be formed in the process of reception, in confrontation with the recipient’s consciousness”. In 1971 the artist made contact with Andrzej Lachowicz, Natalia LL, and Zbigniew Dłubak, which resulted in his participation in exhibitions at the Permafo Gallery in Wrocław. A few months later Sosnowski organized in Wrocław the comprehensive exhibition “Actual Art”, initiating at the same time, the rise of the Actual Art Gallery, another non-institutionalized platform for artistic activity in the city. Dobrosław Bagiński, Janusz Haka, Jolanta Marcolla and Zdzisław Sosnowski – the artists who co-created the creative group the Actual Art Gallery, maintained contact with artistic circles both in Poland and abroad. They organized numerous exhibitions, namely in Akumulatory in Poznań, the Labirynt Gallery in Lublin and the Studio Gallery in Warsaw as well as in Sweden, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. The chosen medium was photo-medium art and the aim was to search for new means of artistic expression in this range. The creators intentionally gave up the creative element in their artistic projects; they avoided the narrative and the aesthetics of the representation, aiming instead to create images as close to the encountered reality as possible.
After the group fell apart, Sosnowski moved to Warsaw where since 1975 together with Jazek Drabik and Janusz Haka he managed the Współczesna Gallery. He gained recognition with the organization of the famed exhibition “The Aspects of Polish Modern Art” when he first showed his work Goalkeeper. The presentation including a film and a series of photographs and slides was a reflection upon new post conceptual creative research, placed within the identification mechanism of the appropriation of mass culture. Created during the rise of a nationwide fascination with football, the Goalkeeper is a fictional character, an allegory of a local celebrity. He is associated, on the one hand, with the legendary 1950’s figure of a footballer from Warsaw, also Zdzisław Sosnowski, and, on the other hand, with autobiographical themes of the artist himself who in his youth was a member of Calisia football team in Kalisz. Central in the project - the film Goalkeeper presents the figure of the artist dressed in a suit, wearing a hat and with a cigar between his teeth, who in theatrical manner throws himself at the footballs whilst defending his goal. In the following frames the same figure is visible in the company of enthusiastic beautiful girls and later still the same person is lying on the ground with a football in his hands, trying to defend himself against the kicks of instrumentally presented female legs. By highlighting only chosen aspects of sports spectacle, Sosnowski used the language of propaganda and advertising strategies with precision. Łukasz Ronduda also draws attention to the possibility of a more political reading of the work. Its pop character may have been the answer to a social-cultural experiment funded by Edward Giereks’ government with their declarations of creating a socialist-consumer society. Sosnowski used myth-creating opportunities of mass culture by publishing the photographs from the Goalkeeper cycle in large circulation sports magazines. In exhibition catalogues, in turn, he inserted interviews with himself as the role of a goalkeeper. Despite his affiliation to the party the artist on several occasions came under fierce attacks by state officials accusing him of a “pro west” inclination and “perversity”. In 1977 the expanded cycle of Goalkeeper was presented at the X Biennale in Paris.
Beside Goalkeeper, another important work in the artist’s oeuvre was the piece Reconstruction, created with Drabik and Haka in 1975. On the basis of photographic reproductions of Rolls of Stine by Richard Long and Variable Piece 116 by Douglas Huebler, found in western magazines and correspondence with the artists, an attempted “reconstruction” of their works was made. The titled “reconstruction” did not happen however in the gallery space but on the grounds of further reproduction in a newspaper Gazeta Współczesna and in a book “Polish Art Copyright”, almost entirely destroyed by censorship. The authors of “Reconstruction”, the artists “behind iron curtain” were intrigued by the problem of the flow of information, the production of new meanings by the global mass media, the peripheral character of art in the countries with communist regimes as well as the category of a copy, repetition and appropriation of creative concept. The latter argument was frequently raised as an accusation in the context of Polish artists following the achievements created by western artists. In 1977 Współczesna Gallery was closed. In the same year Sosnowski organized an exhibition CDN (To be continued) at which he presented works by around 150 young artists. A year later he was an organizer of the first fair of contemporary art in Poland and he accepted as well the post of a director in the Studio Gallery in Warsaw, which aimed towards the promotion of the Polish avant-garde. Within the range of the gallery’s activity, the artist organized exhibitions of artists such as Sol LeWitt, Mario Merz, and Susan Rosenberg.
In 1982 Sosnowski moved with his wife Teresa Tyszkiewicz to Paris. In the 1980’s he initiated a painting cycle of Goalkeeper and he collaborated with emigration publishers. In 1991 he opened with F. Mantel and M. Lynn the Ghislave Gallery, promoting electronic and ecological art and in the 1990’s he undertook the creation of paintings generated by computer.
The myth-creating potential of Goalkeeper inspired Sosnowski again in 2009. Then, he wrote a book Goalkeeper Forever and created a work Robokeeper. The first one was not only a catalogue accompanying his exhibition in the Piekary Gallery in Poznań but also an author’s commentary on the condition of football, its possibilities of development and the cultural role of a goalkeeper as well. Additionally, it perfectly complemented the other project. Robokeeper is yet another incarnation of the artist as a goalkeeper in an unconventional outfit, this time, however, the figure of the Goalkeeper – the idol – is juxtaposed with Robokeeper – the superhero, computer-controlled goalkeeper who will not let in any goal.
The works of Zdzisław Sosnowski were presented on numerous occasions at individual and group exhibitions, namely in Akumulatory 2 in Poznań, at the X Biennale de Paris (1977), at the Presences Polonaises, in Centre Pompidou (1983), in Wanda Dunikowski Galerie, Koln (1989), 1,2,3… Awangarda, Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw (2007 ), in Tate Modern, London (2008), at My Time, Foto-Medium-Art gallery in Cracow (2008), at Goalkeeper Forever in Piekary Gallery in Poznań (2009), and Robokeeper vs Goalkeeper in Galeria im.J.Tarasina in Kalisz (2011).
Magdalena Dworak- Mróz
Ewa Gorządek, Zdzisław Sosnowski, Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej, Zamek Ujazdowski w Warszawie, (w:) http://culture.pl/pl/tworca/zdzislaw-sosnowski
Łukasz Ronduda, Zdzisław Sosnowski czyli o neoawangardowej rewolucji w sztuce polskiej ostatnich 10 lat. (w:) http://www.ghislave.com/textRondudaPL.html
Krzysztof Siatka, Goalkeeper vs Robokeeper Zdzisława Sosnowskiego, (w:) http://www.ghislave.com/textSiatkaPL.html
Łukasz Ronduda, Piotr Uklański "Sztuka polska lat 70, Awangarda" wyd. CSW Warszawa 2009.
Andrzej Saj (red.), Wrocław Sztuki. Sztuka i środowisko artystyczne we Wrocławiu, 1946-2006, Wrocław ASP 2006
Galeria Sztuki Aktualnej (w:) http://marcolla.pl/gsa/galeria_sztuki_aktualnej01a.html