Composing the Space. Sculptures in the Avant-garde

Following the experiments of the avant-garde sculptors, this exhibition examined the behind-the-scenes findings and consequences of the fascinating modernist discoveries regarding the relationship between space, movement and body. Our guide here was Katarzyna Kobro herself and her artworks which were shown against the works of her contemporaries, such as: Naum Gabo, Alexander Calder, Barbara Hepworth, Antoine Pevsner, Jean Arp, Isabelle Waldberg, Alexander Archipenko, and Julio Gonzales. Above all, we asked a question about how artists, while experimenting with the materiality and plasticity of time, space and dynamics of the rhythms of the human body, reflected the complexity of the experience of modernity. We were also able to analyse what exactly characterised their search for new relations between abstract form and movement, as well as what visions of the relationship of man with the environment they proposed.

Kobro claimed that the dynamism of our motor skills can be captured through the rhythm of consecutive moments of movement and stops taking place in space and time. The sculpture was for her a model of a new harmonious order of everyday surroundings, tuned to the optimal psychophysical coordination of human activities. The result was to be rationalised social behaviours whose purposeful organisation was governed by „emotions of planarity”– the term and concept proposed by Kobro. Herself, apart from the Spatial Compositions, she also sculpted the Nudes to which the women she knew or she herself had posed. In the works captivating a human figure with a delicate and tender schematic, we can also find the influences of space-time rhythms on the body itself. The exhibition thus combined these two seemingly separate themes of her work, showing the flow between the daily rhythms of the body and its surroundings.

Following the ideas of creators who want to break free from identifying a sculpture piece with a solid and a closed form alone, the exhibition also problematised the issue of the movement of receivers of art. It was accompanied by performative tours encouraging viewers to look again at the ways in which they engage their body and senses in the reception of the composition of the exhibition and the works exhibited there.

The exhibition publication included reprints and revised translations of Katarzyna Kobro’s texts and articles, as well as selected statements contributed by other sculptors (including Barbara Hepworth, Georges Vantongerloo, Naum Gabo) and several papers by contemporary researchers, including Carola Giedion-Welcker, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Alex Potts and Megan Luke who addressed the issues of avant-garde sculpture and its relationship with space, corporality and movement.