The exhibition will run from October 15, 2022 to November 30, 2022
Tue.: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Wed., Thu., Sat., Sun.: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Archeology of Photography Foundation / Social Center for Photography
20 Chłodna St., 00-891 Warsaw
Maria Chrząszczowa (1913‒1979) is best known for her photographs of architecture, including her documentation of the destroyed Warsaw in 1945, but the artist’s body of work proves to be more diverse. Chrząszczowa photographed cities, people at work (i.a. as part of the series A Human in the Polish People’s Republic), flowers and plants, industrial design, landscapes, and finally she created quite rare but inspiring experimental works from the area of abstract photography. The photographer’s oeuvre is extensive; apart from the collections that remain in the care of the Archeology of Photography Foundation, her works can also be found in the collection of the Museum of Warsaw, as well as in the archives of the Warsaw University of Technology, where Chrząszczowa ran photography workshops at the Department of Polish Architecture from 1953 to 1974.
The exhibition focuses on photographs of flowers and plants. Compared to the considerable volume of works from the field of architectural documentation, this subject may seem marginal in Chrząszczowa’s artistic practice. And yet it is difficult to resist the impression that the images of plants – intimate, saturated with a very special emotional charge – were in some way very important to the artist.
The prints and negatives are hardly ever dated. Apart from a few exceptions, we do not really know whether the photographer took these photographs for the purpose of publishing them in the press, making postcards, or simply as part of her own artistic activity. One of her photographs of flowers was published in ‘Woman’ magazine as early as 1947. Photographs of this kind (unless they inscribed themselves in the convention of scientific botanical photography) are commonly perceived as those of lesser importance, they are also undervalued and dismissed as ‘women’s art’ or, as in the case of the photograph mentioned above – aimed at female recipients. Photographs of flowers and plants taken for postcards were sometimes underestimated as examples of functional photography. The exhibition has been thought to reclaim the importance and value of this area of Chrząszczowa’s artistic practice, but also to reconsider the sole idea of hierarchy in the artist’s photographic oeuvre, and wider, in the common perception of photography. The aforementioned hierarchies, which take us back to nineteenth-century disputes, prove surprisingly persistent today, despite the posthumanism turn and feminist interpretations. Why are photographs of a sprouted potato or a horse chestnut bud considered less important than the documentation of old wooden architecture?
Most probably the vast majority of photographs of plants and flowers by Chrząszczowa (apart from those taken outdoors) were taken at home, in a small studio. The photographer adhered to various conventions. One of them was a silhouette, negative shot maintained in the aesthetics of the photogram herbarium. In other photographs – dense, dark, with saturated blacks – the artist emphasized intriguing, unsettling shapes and silhouettes of plants. Alongside these images, there also emerge Chrząszczowa’s drawings and sketches – decorative floral designs or fragments of illustrations.
In the exhibition, we also present landscape and abstract photographs together with a limited selection of photographs depicting architecture in order to trace how different motifs connected and overlapped in the artist’s body of work. What are the implications of such combinations and overlaps? Did Chrząszczowa’s practice of photographing plants and flowers have any influence on how she perceived and approached architectural details and design? Are these themes really so distant from one another and are the classifications necessary at all?
Curators: Anna Hornik, Marta Przybyło
Research queries: Mada Zielińska
Collaboration: Magda Karczewska
Text editing and proofreading: Maria Sokołowska
English translation: Aleksandra Szymczyk
Ukrainian translation: Dmytro Dmytruk
PR: Maja Sztenke (Steinke Communications)
Exhibition installation: Mateusz Wierzbicki (Willow Service)
Pre-press: Karol Bagiński / FOTO-GRAFIKA
The project co-financed by the City of Warsaw: