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Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Henryk Stazewski Collage

October 7, 2013

I have to admit that before this work was offered to me, I was not aware of Henryk Stazewski. Yet after a short time researching his work, I have become a huge fan. His early and passionate interest in the optical arts would influence other progressive European artists such as Richard Anuszkiewicz, Wojciech Fangor and even Bridget Riley. This work from 1961 is far ahead of it’s time and is as relevant today as it was over fifty years ago. As an investment, one has only to compare Untitled (Collage) to similar works that have sold in Europe to understand how reasonable our estimate is.

– Peter Loughrey, Director of Modern & Contemporary Fine Art

Untitled (Collage) (1961), Henryk Stazewski


Henryk Stazewski

Although he was in his early sixties, 1957 marked the beginning of a new age for Stazewski (1894-1988), a Polish artist and art theorist. In that year at Galerie Denise René in Paris, he was featured in the monumental “Précurseurs de l’art abstrait en Pologne,” the first post-war exhibition to include Polish Constructivist and Avant-garde works. He showed alongside artists and friends including Kazimir Malevich and Wladyslaw Strzeminski. Leading up to this point, Henryk had been forgotten for years. Most of his paintings had been destroyed during the World War II bombings of Warsaw. The Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland in 1939 threw Henryk into a state of shock. He no longer cared to explore his thoughts on the principles of color and shape, as he often did when he was co-editor for the radical and avant-garde magazine Blok which he helped organize in 1924. It was not until the late 1950s that Stazewski experienced his awakening. At a frenzied pace, Stazewski began work on a series of abstract and geometric reliefs. In the first issue of Praesens (1926), another quarterly where the artist served as editor, Stazewski writes, “The rapprochement between painting and architecture has been brought about by a new awareness of the inseparable nature of space, colour, and matter. The impact which colour exerts on shapes in the sense of being able to alter their dimensions, creates a whole new treasury of architectural instruments…these are the main foundations on which the great style of modern art is being built…”

Untitled (Collage) (1961) label, Henryk Stazewski

Tied to his powerful manifestos from the mid-1920s, Untitled (Collage) from 1961 is a miraculous three-dimensional work that not only illustrates but also validates his words. Razor-thin lines of white and black paint are meticulously applied to barrel-like shapes mounted to a rectangular board replete with lines shooting across vertical, horizontal, and diagonal axes. If one looks closely, the lines appear to swell, throb, and twist with the shift of an eye. A stationary and nonrepresentational image becomes animated and vivid when the opposing lines of the backboard meet the forms placed at the center. Like the works of the De Stijl movement’s architect, Theo van Doesburg, Stazewski’s collage promotes the idea that modern art need not be symmetrical, and that color is an organic form of expression which possesses the distinct ability to distort and alter forms when applied. Similar relief works from this critical period in the artist’s career reside in the permanent collections of major institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Tate Gallery.

Lot Information:

Lot 203
Henryk Stazewski
Untitled (Collage)
1961
Painted paper on hardboard relief
Retains DESA Unicum Gallery label verso; retains paper label with printed inventory number “F2003-132 (Stazewski-1)”
Image: 11″ x 14.25″; Frame: 17″ x 20.5″
Provenance: Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago; Private Collection, Chicago (acquired directly from the above, 1963); Thence by descent
Exhibited: “Works on Paper: The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection,” Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, August 15-November 30, 2008
Illustrated: Wei, Lilly. Works on Paper: The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection. Buffalo: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 2008. pp 78-79.
Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000

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