At Bureau, Roman Stańczak Beats on Expressionism

THE DAILY PIC: The sculptor shows that distress can be just a carpenter's trick.


THE DAILY PIC (#1418): For at least a century, art has had a fascination with objects that are distressed, cast-off, time-worn. The look of real flotsam is at the root of the ragged line, the fractured form, the peeling surface that have become our worst expressionist clichés. What intrigues me about this cabinet by Polish artist Roman Stańczak, now in a show of two Warsaw sculptors at Bureau gallery in New York, is that it makes its expressionist artifice perfectly evident.

You can tell that the cupboard started life, no doubt fairly recently, as a normally slick store-bought object. It wasn’t time or ill-use, or the hazards of fate, that reduced it to its final match-stick state. It was an artist willfully having a go at it in a workshop. Expressionism – an especially strong tradition in Poland – normally comes wrapped up in sentiment. In my reading of Stańczak’s piece, its trademark devices become evidence of a cold-hearted artistic process, no more inherently “expressive” than any other act of carpentry.

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