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"Mourning and Memory: Wlodzimierz Ksiazek's Abstract Paintings" by Donald Kuspit.

There are new epiphanies and intricacies of texture in Wlodzimierz Ksiazek's paintings. It is like an eccentric avalanche: sometimes layers of paint coagulate in bizarre bulges; sometimes they flow clown the canvas smoothly, as though wishing to span it in an instant, only to end suspended in its space, their energy spent; and sometimes they gouge out trenches of space that form, as though by chance, a primitive, often irregular and incomplete, if more or less stable geometric pattern, It has the graphic look of an incision or inscription - a sudden formation of intelligibility in the midst of an unintelligible, headlong process. Suddenly there is the miraculous, abrupt appearance of control in an uncontrollable flux. It is these strange trenches - stranger, in the context of the gestures, than the erratic gestures themselves - that give Ksiazek's paintings their edge. Or rather it is the way the orderly pattern exists in the volatile mix of gestures that gives the paintings their enormous evocative power. The pattern is monumental yet peculiarly ephemeral, the gestures indeterminate yet forceful; it is their ambiguous intimacy - the sense that at any moment the pattern could he engulfed by the gestures, suddenly disappear in the renewed rush of its fluidity, and, at the same time, that it completely transcends their flux, however marked by it - that gives the paintings their poignancy

Thus, in one grand, gloomy resonant painting, four window like shapes, arranged in pairs, one above the other, and marking the corners of a rectangle, stand out like precious icons, all the more so because of their subdued yet intense luminosity. They are oases in a desert: unexpected openings to the infinite beyond, breaking through the densely packed surface of finicky, finite gestures. But one window has been partially eaten away by the surrounding murkiness, and all arc infected by it: all are dying from the enveloping gloom, as though from a cancer and they will all eventually become shadows of themselves, indeed, as empty and lightless and opaque as the similar ghostlike shapes in the tows between them. Or has Ksiazek excavated the four windows from the void, rescuing them from oblivion, reminding us of a grandeur that once was? Are they the residue of a structure that was more magnificent than any our world could conceive? It is hard to say and the ambiguity is a crucial part of the enigma the paintings engage: the enigmatic presence of ambiguous signs of life in a scene of loss and ruin - or mourning and memory - of catastrophic, efflorescing decay Ksiazek is an archaeologist, lifting our collective amnesia, but he is also a master of the enigma of presence, all the more intense because it is always mixed with absence, and thus inherently apocalyptic.

A more eccentric pattern, spreading horizontally across the canvas, emerges in a darkly blue painting, and the linear remnants of a regular pattern are lightly streaked with blue-as though to lend them the life of the dynamic sky-in another, blacker painting. Some patterns are triangular, some involve rows of rectangles, and sometimes a square appears; all seem partial, incomplete, and compressed - truncated, to the extent that it is hard to imagine what the structures they imply might be like. Ksiazek has said that they are architectural plans, and as such are mental constructs rather than physical realities. And yet they are given stark physical presence by their embedded ness in the tumult of the paint. We may not be able to imagine the buildings that were once constructed on their basis, but they themselves have the aura of expressive constructions. They are the foundational signs that are left after the buildings have been razed: they are in effect momento mori - reminders of death.

Of what death? Of what death do we always have to be reminded in the modem world? Of the death of the sacred. This is the death that I think Ksiazek's paintings engage - and, in a sense, why they must be abstract, for in our world the sacred has become a distant abstraction rather than a concrete, immediate presence. There is indeed a sense of being at an enormous temporal and physical distance from some mystery - still glowing with embers of life - in Ksiazek's paintings. Archaeology tries to overcome such distance, which is emotionally measurable - a feverish sense of the immeasurable lurks in Ksiazek's space - in order to give us a sense of the life that once was and has been forgotten. Archaeology cannot help but evoke its life in the act of recovering its signs. There is a terrible pathos in archaeological excavation, especially in the excavation of a concept that has died, and the idea of art as the archaeological excavation of such a concept suggests its affinity with death. Indeed, Ksiazek's conception of his painting as the "archaeological exploration of pictorial space' implicitly acknowledges that it is dead.

Art was once able to picture the sacred in imaginary space bring it to vivid life in a picture comprehensible by all - but now it is only able to evoke it by acknowledging its death. Ksiazek's esoteric paintings engage the abstract ghost of the sacred. The friction between the surface formed by the gestures and the depth suggested by the pattern - the tension between them remains however much they seem "dialectically" reconciled by their interplay - generates a vague, numinous feeling of the sacred, for its substance is no longer available for human use. To use Thomas Seheok's language, Ksiazek's a verbal semiotic system of gestures is in effect the disintegrated flesh of the sacred, while his geometric patterns - a language that can be verbalized - are in effect its bones. Nonetheless, it can be said that in mourning for the sacred, Ksiazek's paintings preserve the idea of it, for archaeology - which is a kind of mourning - is in effect a way of preserving, even resurrecting, in however attenuated a form, the idea of something that was once necessary to life, and may still secretly be, which is why it is excavated and its ruins cherished. It may only be an appearance - a grand illusion - but it still has emotional reality.

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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