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"Forward" by David Moos

'In/pulse'- push from inside.

Impulses precede physical action, still almost invisible, was already born in the body. It is this, the impulse (...) In reality, the physical action, if not begun by an impulse, becomes something conventional, almost like gesture. When we work on the impulses, everything becomes rooted in the body.
--Jerry Grotowski, 'Conference at Liege,' 1986

Although Jerry Grotowski, the great Polish dramatist and theorist, is here reflecting upon how an actor might train the body in preparation for performance, his ideas become provocative when applied to the act of painting. By examining the foundation from which action begins, and understanding this morpheme of motion as a meaningful 'impulse,' grotowski seeks to map an interiority for the body that may be directed, studied and formed. If the actor's art is to deploy the body as primary instrument within the arena of the theater, so the painter's might stem from how the body becomes the primary agent articulating paint's substance.

The paintings of Wlodzimierz Ksiazek manifest an imtimate knowledge of the body. This knowledge is left everywhere evident: in the recessed substructures that organize space, on the scabrous surfaces that abrade in ceaseless juxtaposition, and, with the occasional, timed occurrence of stranded shards of color. These separate features that comprise each work are simultaneously present, posed as integral. Although the images Ksiazek's paintings produce appear to be preoccupied with states of erosion and processes of repeal, the surfaces are in fact additive, resulting from a succession of applications. Over-painting and accumulation are the hallmarks of his method, and it is this insistence on a perpetual, forward-moving process that links his work to the movements of the body. The body operates sequentially. Its actions cannot be undone in time. Adherence to and acceptance of this constraint inscribes all of Ksiazek's work. A common method of construction prevails throughout the current group of paintings, most of which are large in format. Some appear to be metallic, the result of molten processes that have cooled, congealed into cauterized dense masses. Others are preoccupied with the inscription of architectonic motifs and exploit the allure of surface to re-assert the power of generative geometries.

Regardless of each work's complexion, all of the paintings declare their status as arrested expositions of formation, displaying a traceable syntax of modulated application. The exposed, legible construction of the paintings' image is meant to give us access to the formative realm. Here, within the intricacies of each image, we are led to experience the drama of making.

Ksiazek's lucid application of oil paint layer upon layer, allows us to retrace each work's construction - as displayed in, for example, two large paintings, the greyed-ocher and whitish work measuring 80 x 100 inches and the leaden green 80 x 90 inch canvas. The decision-making regime that governs each image is born deep within the artist's body. As the surfaces become inflected, amended and altered - oily drips marking their complexion and palette-knifed material sweeping across their skins - the painter's body-network of movement is registered and made manifest.

If such descriptive terminology resonates closely with the prior language of high modernism, this merely reflects the inescapable imprint of language's residue. Ksiazek is neither mining nor miming the familiar grandiloquent terrain of Abstract Expressionism. He is rather intent on exploring the limits of his highly evolved corporeal reality. His work functions as the agitated template of impulse which, as Grotowski postulates, becomes profound only when it is rigorously ' rooted in the body.' There are no 'gestures' in Ksiazek's work. Instead, each image bears the intensity of 'in/pulse,' the placing of movements that have originated from within the measured depths of a well-trained artist - an artist who has worked on the meaning of a specific set of actions. In this regard, paint is simply the outcome or carrier of the artist's more internal, essential actions.

While commentators have cast Ksiazek as ' an inveterate psycho-formalist' whose work speaks in 'universalist terms,' or construed his project in material terms as heir to the encrustations of 'early Dubuffet, Tapies and several of their Polish followers,' his work seeks rather a separate, more personal intensity. By endeavoring to elaborate the impulse, to achieve a plane of initiation where intention and its pronunciation are merged, Ksiazek opens and reveals the self for expression.

Ksiazek has never applied titles to any of his paintings. Such an insistence on sheer actuality frees the work from the towering weight of twentieth century abstraction. Unlike an artist such as Anselm Kiefer, whose us of titling over-determines the content of painting, Ksiazek's reticence over verbally designating painting releases each work from a historical foundation. Without titles painting cannot be fixed into familiar referential territory. No landscapes, no memories, no cultural associations...to engage these works we must undertake a direct approach. We must consent not to mediate encounter with the freight of our own allusions.

Only because of extenuating circumstances regarding the custody of his young daughter has Ksiazek, in an unprecedented move, elected to deploy an umbrella title for the current exhibition: ' Hostage.' This word, igniting connotations of iniquitous power, is plaintive, poignant, desperate. It becomes a vector that links the work to a state of deprivation, a personal emergency.

Until now Ksiazek has carefully refrained from allowing any political undercurrent to affect his work. As a Solidarity-era, self-willed exile from Poland, it would have been all too easy for Wlodimierz Ksiazek to infuse his abstract work with the oppressive cloak of his East European upbringing. Opting to pursue his own project - to experience and elaborate the contours of physical action - his evolution as an artist over the past two decades has been unfettered, bound only by the unfurling of his lived knowledge in paint. Now a single word, 'Hostage', resides along the horizon of painting's implication. In the twilight of this century, the grim motif of an artist without options shapes our approach to Ksiazek's recent body of work. Painting becomes the artist's emotional ransom, fraught with an urgent intensity. If one follows this metaphor it becomes clear that as a hostage, the artist has only his body. He must work solely with this, his final resource. And similarly, to access Ksiazek's work, so too must we also rely upon our own bodies. Only with body experience can we replicate the encounter of making. Again with Grotowski we observe: 'before physical action, there is the impulse, which pushes from inside the body.' To travel Ksiazek's surfaces and inhabit their space, we must follow the artist's visible actions, mapping and retracing the visibly accrued image . We must experience how our eyes anticipate the flow of the image, from ideation, to impulse, to mark. In essence, this is the chain of cognizant motion that Ksiazek's work seeks to elucidate. As a painter, he wants to reveal to us - his collaborative audience - the texture of the body's time.

To attain this sophisticated level of performance, Ksiazek has invested heavily in a corpus of reiterated movements, evidenced by those now recognizable, registered layers of carved, brushed, smeared and arrested paint. Ksiazek's adherence to the intricate, evocative power of these continuous actions forges an integrated totality that refuses to privilege isolated gestures. Each painting configures all actions, both large and minute, as simultaneously relevant, valuable. The visibly apparent holistic presence of the paintings' surfaces allows us to witness how an image comes to exist, in the separate realities each of us make.

Monographic Publication: Wlodzimierz Ksiazek: Paintings. Jaffe-Friede & Strauss Galleries, Hopkinson Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NY, April 14- May 10, 1998. Text by Donald Kuspit. Published by Dartmouth College, NH (Library of Congress # 2002449208)

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