1953–1972. Childhood and adolescence
Ludwika Ogorzelec was born in 1953 at Chobienia in Lower Silesia, a settlement located between Ścinawa and Głogów, where her parents, uprooted by World War II, had settled. Chobienia’s long history harks back to the later Bronze Age and its fields still yield relics of the archaeological Lusatian culture. From the late 13th century through 1945, it was a small town. Antoni Ogorzelec, Ludwika’s father, was born in the area of Tarnów in Lesser Poland, her mother, Klementyna nee Chmielowska, came from a gentry family in Poland’s former Eastern Borderlands incorporated into the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the war. Their family estate was located near Stanisławów (today Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine). Ludwika was the fourth of the couple’s seven children: she has four sisters and two brothers.
At home, as the children were helping out with various chores, one would always be charged with reading aloud a book, most often great literature. The ravages of war were still very much evident in the surrounding landscape that was peppered with bunkers, bruised with trenches. In the evenings, their parents and neighbors would recall the war and so early on Ludwika became aware of Poland’s traumatic recent history as it really happened. This knowledge immunized her against the doctored version tailored to the Soviet-inspired propaganda which was taught at school.
The house they occupied was designed by the famed German architect Ernst May. Her childhood, spent in this house and garden set in the picturesque postglacial landscape on the Odra River, would shape her sensitivity and interests. After finishing primary school, she tried to get to the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Wrocław but failed and instead enrolled at the high school in neighboring Góra Śląska (1968–1972).
1972–1978. DIFFICULT BEGINNINGS: STUDYING AND WORKING
Already as a child, Ludwika showed an artistic talent. She was only eight when she sculpted a head out of a potato and later she would erect intriguing objects-cum-totems around the house. She became certain that she wanted to study sculpture and decided to get to the then State College (today Academy) of Fine Arts in Wrocław. In 1972–1978, she submitted her application every year, took the exams six times and on her sixth attempt, she finally succeeded and was accepted.
During this period, she attended the Teacher Education College in Legnica for one academic year (1973/1974) but was relegated following an ideological conflict with the Marxist philosophy lecturer. At the college, she met painter Bronisław Chyła who taught art classes and she continued to benefit from his instruction even after leaving school. Chyła’s passion for art and his guidance would exert a seminal influence upon her approach and future work. She has taken up his advice: “Start with a broom, finish with a needle”. It has taught her to work from general to specific.
In the meantime, she held various jobs. She was the manager of the local Community Center in Chobienia (1972–1973), a shop window designer and decorator for the Społem Cooperative in Legnica (1974–1976) and the Cepelia Cooperative in Wrocław (for some time in 1977), and a modeler at the Wrocław Opera (1977–1978). In 1976, she had her first solo exhibition at the Copper Museum in Legnica. For that, she was criticized by some in the local art community outraged that a person with no formal art education dared to show her sculptures. In the same year, Ludwika spent her holidays in Paris invited by her cousins who lived there. This first encounter with the great city, its museums and galleries, was an inspirational experience. It strengthened her self-confidence and resolve, encouraging her to strive to “attain the unattainable”. It showed her that there was the whole great world beyond Legnica to explore and conquer.
In 1977, she enrolled at the Community Art Center in Wrocław where she met several artists whose instruction would prove important for her art education: graphic artist Janusz Halicki, graphic artist and sculptor Andrzej Żarnowiecki, sculptress Joanna Domaszewska. Of the young art adepts she met there and befriended, some have since become full-fledged artists, like Christos Mandzios, a Greek living in Poland, who is now a sculpture professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław.
1978–1984. ART STUDIES AND UNDERGROUND ACTIVITY. INSTRUMENTS OF EQUILIBRIUM
In 1978, Ludwika’s sixth attempt to enter the PWSSP (State College of Fine Arts) in Wrocław was finally successful thanks to Professor Łucja Skomorowska-Wilimowska’s admiration for her works. In her second year, she unsurprisingly chose sculpture as her major and got enrolled at the class of Professor Leon Podsiadły. At this time, she also took part in an experimental project of the world-famous Laboratory Theater of Jerzy Grotowski whose seat was located close to the PWSSP. The Tree of People project was a para-theatrical action exploring trans-cultural, non-lingual channels of communication. This experience made Ludwika aware of the crucial importance of her sensitivity to the sensual aspect of surrounding space which she had honed since her childhood. She has adopted the term “primal sensitivity” from the Laboratory Theater’s theoretical texts.
In 1981–1982, during her fourth year at the PWSSP, under the project realized for her sculpture class, she made the first pieces from her seminal Instruments of Equilibrium cycle. Referring to her childhood experience with walking on stilts, she created lightweight linear wood structures appropriating the surrounding space. The theme of equilibrium would prove central to her approach to sculpture which she has continued ever since. At this time, she also put down the first written version of her artistic manifesto which has likewise remained relevant and has since been elaborated and expanded. The text was quoted in the catalogue of the Salon de la Jeune Sculpture staged in Paris in 1986.
Her MFA graduation project entitled Alogical Mechanisms, prepared under the guidance of Professor Leon Podsiadły as her academic advisor, was presented in 1983. It featured mobile sculptures that addressed the theme of sense and absurdity by referring to the idea of mechanism while continuing the artist’s focus on movement, time, and space. To make them, she used steel bars and odd pieces of marble that were left over from other students’ failed projects. And so, she would say that her MFA graduation pieces were made “of other people’s intentions”. Her project was graded “cum laude”.
The following year, Ludwika’s MFA graduation project was featured at the national exhibition of the best MFA graduation projects submitted by art students across the country which was staged in Kraków. As a result, the Museum of Art in Łódź bought two of her pieces for its collection. At the same time, at the request of the Security Service, the Rector of the PWSSP was forced to cancel her “cum laude” grade: it would be restored in 1990 after the fall of the communist system. After graduation, for a year and a half (1983–1984) Ludwika worked at the Community Center in Wrocław as an art instructor helping young adepts to prepare for their entrance exams to the PWSSP.
Already as an art student she got politically involved in response to the introduction of martial law in Poland in December 1981. She joined Solidarność Walcząca [Fighting Solidarity], a politically radical underground anti-communist organization rejecting any negotiations with the regime and striving to overthrow it. She was involved in the organization’s counter-intelligence and was instrumental in protecting many democratic opposition activists from arrest. During the four years of her “subversive” activity in Wrocław, she never blew out her cover. During this period, she also designed and carved in wood some 300 pieces of the so-called “black jewelry” in reference to the tradition of the January Uprising in 1863–1864 but employing current patriotic symbolism and references to Solidarity and fight against the communist system. To many activists of the democratic opposition, her cross pendants, medallions, necklaces, and rings became kind of talismans to support them morally and mentally. The friendships established with fellow members of Fighting Solidarity during this challenging period have remained extremely important to Ludwika ever since.
1984–1985. FIRST YEARS IN PARIS
In 1985, Ludwika Ogorzelec was dispatched to Paris by Kornel Morawiecki, the leader of Fighting Solidarity. Her mission was to establish the organization’s unofficial “embassy” in the capital of France. Its clandestine status reflected the fact that Fighting Solidarity was not only illegal but was also avidly pursued by the Security Service. Ludwika traveled on the invitation from her cousins settled in the city: it made possible for her to apply for a passport and the French visa. In Paris, she successfully contacted a number of people who could support the activities of Fighting Solidarity, among them Jerzy Giedroyc of Maison-Laffitte, Rafał Gan-Ganowicz, Natalia Gorbaniewska, and also many Polish émigré cultural institutions, like Kontakt, Editions-Spotkania, etc.
Simultaneously, Ludwika tried to make contacts in the art circles and to continue her work. She made visits to the École Nationale des Beaux Arts and showed the photographs of her works to the faculty. As a result, the world-famous sculptor César invited her to use his atelier. From October 1985 to the spring of 1987, she made several large pieces continuing the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle. César was so captivated by her works that he showed them to his students as examples of a new, original aesthetic resulting from the artist’s resolute and autonomous approach. When after a year spent in France, Ludwika had problems with extending her visa, César personally intervened on her behalf with Prime Minister Chirac. It is thanks to him that Ludwika has since continued to live in Paris where she also has her studio. She has nevertheless never applied to become a French citizen and retained her Polish citizenship. It has been her choice: working in many countries and continents, she has always presented herself as a Polish artist thus following Kornel Morawiecki’s instruction to always promote Polish culture.
Gradually, she began participating in the French art scene by taking part in Parisian art salons: La Jeune Sculpture at Port d’Austerlitz (1986) and also in the traditional Salons in the Grand Palais: Salon d’Automne (1986), Salon Réalités Nouvelles (1987, 1988), Salon de Mai (1988), and Salon Comparaison (1988). She became known in the art circles of Paris.
In 1986, Ludwika Ogorzelec’s sculptures were for the first time mentioned in the art press in Poland: Zbigniew Makarewicz devoted to them a passage in his article on Wrocław sculptors published in the first issue of the leading topical journal Rzeźba Polska published by the Center of Polish Sculpture at Orońsko.
After several challenging years in Paris, where she supported herself by executing small decorative arts commissions, in 1988 Ludwika was invited to participate in the artist-in-residence program in Gerlesborg, Sweden for three months. One of the pieces created there was acquired by a private collector.
1988–1991. FIRST INTERNATIONAL SUCCESSES. ARTISTIC PROGRAM OF SPACE CRYSTALLIZATION
The year 1989 and two following years proved crucial to Ludwika Ogorzelec’s work and position on the art scene. She continued participating in the annual Salons in the Grand Palais in Paris: Salon Réalités Nouvelles (1989, 1990, 1991), Salon de Mai (1989, 1990, 1991), and Salon Comparaison (1990). She also took part in a group exhibition at the Galerie Barbier-Beltz. The gallery also offered to represent her and pay her a small but regular salary so that she could concentrate on creative work. In 1989, the gallery presented the solo exhibition of Ludwika Ogorzelec. The exhibition’s centerpiece was a wooden sculpture that extended the notion and boundaries of an object to become a structure extending into space. It was the first test of the artist’s original and innovative conception of sculpture which would be soon elaborated into her signature “Space Crystallization” program. The exhibition and also artist’s earlier pieces attracted the attention of art critic Françoise Monnin who devoted to her work a long article in the influential art journal Artension. It was the first article on Ludwika Ogorzelec published in France and the first one outside Poland.
In early 1990, Ludwika Ogorzelec showed her Alogical Mechanisms at a major retrospective exhibition of the PWSSP [State College of Fine Arts] in Wrocław staged at the galeria CBWA Zachęta in Warsaw, Poland. Her sculpture from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle was presented at the Event Week ’90 Festival in Tokyo, Japan.
The most important development during this period was an invitation, following a juried selection process from among dozens of applications, to spend seven months as an artist-in-residence at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, USA. After three months at the FAWC, the influential Philippe Staib Gallery in New York invited her to take part in the Steel and Wood group exhibition alongside such established artists as William Tucker, Zero Higashida, Lee Tribe, Michael McKeown. Her new Instruments of Equilibrium were highly praised in the exhibition’s review by the prominent art critic Michael Brenson published in The New York Times.
The following year 1991 began with Ludwika Ogorzelec’s solo exhibition at the Hudson D. Walker Gallery at the FAWC in Provincetown realized as the conclusion of her residence. For this exhibition, she created the first work from the new Space Crystallization cycle. As the pieces from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle produced in Provincetown had already been shown at the Staib Gallery, confronting the empty gallery space, she decided to make something completely new. She filled the corner of the first exhibition space with a linear structure of processed wood: it was a monumental openwork pyramid, squeezed into the room’s corner and taking up about one third of its cubic space. Its oblique wall forced the perusing visitor to adjust their position as it descended towards the floor hovering still lower and lower above their heads. The concise geometrical form nested in the first room expanded with individual linear “shoots” that penetrated the second room at various levels to reach the second pyramid, this one of seemingly chaotic structure, suspended above the people’s heads. So, for the first time in Ludwika Ogorzelec creative work, the visitor entering the Hudson D. Walker Gallery would thus enter the interior of her sculpture as the whole gallery space was turned into a sculpture. The public was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about this new approach but some felt intimidated. Apparently, the artist was very successful at touching human emotions. No longer was her work an object to look at: it was transformed into a redefined space to whose energy people responded with their “primal sensitivity”.
This groundbreaking work attracted the attention of Ann Wilson Lloyd who wrote an article about it and published in Art in America. This was indeed a spectacular conclusion of Ogorzelec’s residence in Provincetown and at the same the opening of her new artistic program focused on creating site-specific sculptures, the project which she has continued ever since. The programmatic manifesto, its premises formulated already in 1981, informed her subsequent works. It was elaborated and worded in English in 1990 as she applied for the residency program at the FAWC. Its new version, updated to comprise the “Space Crystallization” idea was put in writing in 1991 and since then it has been included in artist’s press releases accompanying her successive realizations. The program’s basic premises were related in her interview with Elżbieta Dzikowska published in 2005 in the latter’s book W sztuce świata. Polscy artyści [Polish Artists in the Art of the World] and in the topical article by Elena Goukassian in Sculpture in 2012.
In the same year 1991, Ludwika Ogorzelec took part in the well-publicized We Are Present exhibition at the Galeria Zachęta in Warsaw which showcased works by Polish artists residing and working abroad. The exhibition’s curators Elżbieta Dzikowska and Wiesława Wierzchowska had been introduced to her sculpture by Zbigniew Dłubak, a painter and photographer settled in Meudon near Paris. Ogorzelec’s large but openwork wooden structure, light and mobile, was shown alongside a monumental, heavy sculpture by Ursula von Rydingsvärd, an American sculptress of Polish extraction: this juxtaposition emphasized the original aesthetic of her piece.
In the same year, Ludwika Ogorzelec had her Instruments of Equilibrium and drawings featured at a small solo exhibition at Hartby’s Gallery in Paris. She also took part in the XXV Prix International d’Art Contemporain in Monte Carlo, Monaco where she was honored with the Prix du Conseil National. At this time, her collaboration with the Galerie Barbier-Beltz unfortunately ended over a dispute about its terms.
1992–2000. RISING ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE
After the period of intense exhibition activity in 1991, it almost halted the following year. In 1992, Ludwika Ogorzelec took part in only one exhibition: Polish Contemporary Art organized in Orleans, France. In 1993, she likewise realized only one project but it was an important one, very interesting for its original conception and spectacular aesthetic effect. Entitled Transparency, it was yet another sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle. It was constructed in the Greek island of Crete under the Third Minos Beach Art Symposium. A simple openwork pyramid built of glass strips of varied width appeared to emerge from a massive irregular volcanic rock on the sea shore often beaten by sea waves. The piece was about juxtaposing three kinds and states of transparent matter: water (liquid), air (gas), and glass (solid matter) and creating volatile visual situations changing with weather change. The piece has stayed on site in Crete as part of the collection of the Mamidakis Foundation.
From 1994 onwards, the number of exhibitions grew year by year. At this time, Ludwika Ogorzelec produced yet another groundbreaking work. The Feral Apple Tree from the Space Crystallization cycle was a linear structure built of wood that filled up and crosscut the gallery space, for the first time expanding beyond the interior: the pyramid’s tip penetrated through the gallery’s huge glazed window into the street, while its base’s corner extended into an adjoining room. The piece’s first version, realized at the Galeria Awangarda BWA in Wrocław, was followed by its second installment at the Galeria Laboratorium at Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. After the exhibition in Wrocław had closed down, the sculpture was dismantled and re-assembled in Warsaw and thus transformed into an entirely new piece, its crossing lines altering the character of another particular space.
In the fall of the same year, Ludwika Ogorzelec began another residence at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In early 1995, she would again be challenged by the same exhibition space at the Hudson D. Walker Gallery and thus she would have to confront her own work from four years prior. So, she symbolically bonded with the people invited to enter the gallery. She filled the upper section of the gallery two rooms with a lightweight wooden structure descending from the ceiling to the height of 150 cm above the floor (the artist’s eye level). By arbitrarily imposing this level of reference, she forced the visitors to move around so that each person could find his or her personal space within the structure and discover their own eye level. The piece, fittingly entitled My Eye Level won the attention and appreciation of Berta Walker, the owner of another prestigious art gallery in Provincetown, who consequently invited artist to exhibit at the gallery’s two venues: the West-Window and East-Window. Thus, in one year, Provincetown saw three solo exhibitions of Ludwika Ogorzelec.
She filled the very small space of the West-Window with a new sculpture of the Space Crystallization cycle so tight that nobody could squeeze in. The wooden structure then expanded and visually penetrated the walls and roof to expand outdoors. Concurrently, the East-Window featured the pieces from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle made by Ludwika during her residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
The success of these exquisite, original and innovative presentations in America was noticed and amplified in Europe: Ludwika Ogorzelec’s work was featured among the most interesting manifestations of the new sculpture in La Sculpture Moderne , a seminal book by Itzhak Goldberg and Françoise Monnin published in Paris in the same year. The text on Ludwika’s work was illustrated with the photograph of one of her Instruments of Equilibrium from 1989.
Among this flurry of international activity, Ludwika Ogorzelec did not forget about Poland. In the same year 1995, she had her second solo exhibition at the Copper Museum in her hometown Legnica. The exhibition showcased a new sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle entitled Wild Shoots of a Fruit Tree. Like in the previous year, the piece’s title was an homage to the tree and wood: this time it was a plum tree with its superbly sculptural wild shoots contributing to a new, this time aesthetic reality.
The year 1996 brought five exhibitions; four solo and one group shows. The first one was staged at the Galeria Grodzka BWA in Lublin, Poland, and its centerpiece was the new version of Wild Shoots of a Fruit Tree. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with an introductory essay by Zbigniew Dłubak. The opening of the exhibition was accompanied by a mouth harp concert played by Jerzy Andruszko. The mouth harp produces single-pitched sounds analogous to line segments extending into space and thus the concert perfectly complemented Ludwika Ogorzelec’s space action.
The artist’s second solo exhibition in the same year was presented at the Galerie Pascal Vanhoecke in Paris. The top section of the gallery’s two rooms were filled with a structure built of wood lines. Gradually descending from the ceiling, it took up some two-thirds of their cubic space. Until then, Paris had not been taken by the Space Crystallization idea although it had already informed artist’s work for five years. But now, the sculpture realized in the space offered by the young gallery owner cajoled into the project won the art critics over for the transformation of her art: from the objects of the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle to the space crystallization conception centered on redefining space, making it emotionally charged, and inviting the visitor to enter the inside of sculpture.
This proved a wonderful “new opening” in Paris and soon it resulted in new opportunities and invitations. One of them was for the artist’s solo exhibition to celebrate the opening of the new Galeria Les Punxes in Barcelona. It featured objects from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle alongside My Eye Level II, a new installment of the Space Crystallization cycle. The piece, a structured plane horizontally cutting through the gallery space, was enthusiastically received
by the public.
The success of her presentation at the Pascal Vanhoecke Gallery led to an invitation to take part in the Tree group exhibition at the Galerie Bruno Delarue
in the third district of Paris. Ludwika contrasted her lightweight and subtle structure of wood “lines” with the massive stone walls and low ceiling of the gallery’s underground floor: accumulated in the corners, the lines extended at various levels and became attenuated towards the center of the room. The sculpture was accompanied by the sounds of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s Third Symphony and visitors were forced to adjust their body position to the changing spatial context as they moved around.
Following these Parisian exhibitions, the sculptures from the Space Crystallization cycle won recognition as unique and spectacular non-commercial events. Their newly-acquired fame drew the public and attracted the interest of journalists and art critics. Renowned art critic Itzhak Goldberg devoted to them an article in MuséArt entitled Ludwika Ogorzelec – architecte de l’aléatoire.
In the same year, Ludwika also participated in the Theatre Festival in Normandy, setting up her Instruments of Equilibrium in palatial interiors while her new sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle took center stage in the palace’s park: it incorporated a dead tree. The opening of the exhibition was again graced by Jerzy Andruszko playing the mouth harp.
The year 1997 brought six exhibitions: three in France, one in Switzerland, and two in Germany. One of the latter, entitled Haltungen [Attitudes] was in fact a Polish exhibition as it featured eleven Polish artists in the Royal Castle in Dresden, Germany. The other German venue was the Old Town Hall in Worpswede where Ludwika had a two-artist show with Conceptual artist Waldemar Grażewicz. This time, her new take on the Crystallization of Space began in the park, fifty meters from the gallery entrance, with a line laid on the ground and thickening into an increasingly substantial structure as it approached the building and then penetrated its wall and window, climbed the stairs to the second floor where it split into multiple spatial variations. In Switzerland, Ludwika Ogorzelec’s individual exhibition was shown at the minute Galerie 50 m2 in Geneva and focused on objects from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle but she also managed to annex the gallery’s upper room to construct a Space Crystallization sculpture of wood lines that expanded to annex a fragment of the street.
All three exhibitions staged in France were individual or two-artist shows. A new piece from the Space Crystallization cycle, the monumental structure of wooden lines built in the gallery of the Culture Forum in Blanc-Mesnil on the outskirts of Paris was subsequently dismantled to construct the cycle’s new installment at Galerie Askéo in Paris as the centerpiece of a two-artist project with Lebanese painter Fadia Haddad. The narrow structure cut vertically through the gallery’s two storeys: it penetrated through the ceiling and partially extended into the adjoining street. In Bar-le-Duc in the east of France, the Gothic Chapel of St. Louis converted into an art gallery housed a sculpture that was made site-specific by incorporating the place’s tradition: the linear wooden structure ascended along the nave towards the former sanctuary where the increasingly attenuated lines gradually vanished presumably into some invisible infinity.
In 1998, Ludwika Ogorzelec had three exhibitions, all of them individual: at the Alice Mogabgab Gallery in Beirut (Instruments of Equilibrium); the Musée-Galerie de la Seita, an important destination on the artistic map of Paris (the exhibition was curated by Itzhak Goldberg, the author of the seminal article on Ogorzelec published two years earlier); and finally she revisited Galerie Pascal Vanhoecke in Paris. The latter two exhibitions showcased new sculptures from the Space Crystallization cycle. Notably, the structure built at the Galerie Pascal Vanhoecke was not of wood but constructed of corroded steel bars. The exhibition curated by Goldberg inspired yet another important article on Ludwika Ogorzelec’s art, written by Françoise Monnin and published in MuséArt, and was widely and internationally reviewed. In the same year, Ludwika Ogorzelec started a residence at the Apex Studio in New York.
In 1999, the artist’s works were featured at four solo exhibitions: in France, Belgium, Poland, and Andorra. After two years, she revisited Galerie Askéo in Paris. This time, she reached for glass and created a sculpture captivating with sublime light effects and simultaneously threatening with its sharp edges.
The sculpture created at the Experimental Intermedia Gallery Window in Ghent, Belgium, likewise expanded beyond the gallery’s small space, while at the Galeria Pokaz in Warsaw the structure built of wood almost completely annexed the tight, dark interior forcing the visitor to crouch and almost crawl on the floor.
The invitation to Andorra came from Pilar Riberaygua, the owner of the country’s leading art gallery (who also owns the Galeria Les Punxes in Barcelona). As the gallery is accessed through historic narrow streets, the artist let her sculpture start with a linear form anchored at a fountain in a nearby square, then run along the street above the passers-by’s heads and enter the hall and exhibition room to penetrate a huge glass window and emerge in the veranda. This striking idea attracted scores of new visitors to the gallery.
In 1999, Ludwika Ogorzelec participated in the very prestigious and monumental exhibition Weaving the World. Contemporary Arts Linear Construction at the Yokohama Art Museum, Japan. She was invited alongside artists of international stature: Andy Goldsworthy, Catherine Owens, John McQueen, Martin Puryear, and Rosemarie Trockel. Constructed in the entrance hall, her monumental Space Crystallization piece (4 × 6 × 14 m) woven of wooden lines opened the exhibition by providing an “emotional prelude”. The work made a tremendous and lasting impression attested by its photograph featured as an illustrative example of the new conception of beauty in modern art in a Japanese art history textbook for high school students published four years later.
In the same year, she spent three months as an artist-in-residence under the Bernheim Artist-in-Residence at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Kentucky, USA, where she constructed multiple wooden sculptures (Instruments of Equilibrium), varying in format, of distinctively dynamic, unusual form. In contrast to the typical light hue of Ogorzelec’s works, two pieces had the red color of aromatic cedar wood of which they were made. One piece has remained as a permanent installation on the local lake.
2000–2010. BECOMING AN ESTABLISHED INTERNATIONAL ARTIST
In 2000, Ludwika Ogorzelec’s highly original and visually spectacular conception of sculpture was appreciated and honored with The Pollock-Krasner Grant, a very prestigious art award of The Pollock-Krasner Foundation in New York. The grant is aimed at supporting promising artists by enabling them to focus on their work and expand their creative potential. The prestigious grant opened many doors to Ogorzelec and led to multiple international invitations, especially in the United States. From then on, the artist’s exhibition activity has steadily increased so the following section in the Chronicle selectively focuses on the most important projects.
Ogorzelec had begun preparing for an exhibition at the Robert Pardo Gallery in New York’s Chelsea in the fall of 1999 during her Bernheim Artist-in-Residence. There, she had made several pieces from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle and prepared material for a new Space Crystallization piece: she processed the wood of a recently felled pine tree. In the sculpture subsequently built at the Pardo Gallery, she returned to her programmatic form: the pyramid with a rectangular base, propped obliquely on one of the base’s corners, its two long edges penetrating through the wall separating the gallery space from the entrance hall. The intrigued visitors would flood the gallery, especially after Holland Cotter in The New York Times called the sculpture a “knockout”. It was also mentioned in Art News and Artforum.
The material from the dismantled sculpture at the Robert Pardo Gallery was subsequently recycled in the project realized at the Islip Art Museum in Long Island, NY. The monumental structure of wood lines was purposefully abstract to eliminate any objective allusions and instead focus exclusively on space. It was the artist’s response to comments made by visitors and critics about her earlier works revealing that perceptual stereotypes had to be broken in order to effectively introduce the viewer to sculptures informed by the “space crystallization” conception. Ogorzelec has continued to highly appreciate this sculpture as an important step in her artistic development.
By contrast, she regards the next project from the Space Crystallization cycle, realized at the Kunsthalle in Worpswede, Germany (famous for its collection of German Postimpressionist painting), as unsuccessful (although it was praised by art critics) for the limitations imposed upon her creative freedom by the constraints reflecting the extremely detailed and complex regulations of German law. For this reason she never includes photographs of the piece in publications presenting her oeuvre.
In the same year, Ogorzelec revisited Pilar Riberaygua at her Galeria Les Punxes in Barcelona. The new piece from the Space Crystallization cycle was a monumental spherical form (diameter 3.6 m) emanating powerful energy. The artist’s solitary work to make it that lasted ten days and nights was a kind of meditation. The situation was thus very different from the recent experience in Germany where an excessively large and heavily-equipped team had been employed to realize a relatively simple project. Ogorzelec dedicated her work to the gallery owner, Pilar Riberaygua, at the time already gravely ill (she would die two years later).
The year 2001 began with a new installment of the Space Crystallization cycle at the Spalding University Art Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky. The project was realized with students’ participation as part of their curriculum. The sculpture – a pyramid with a rectangular base, positioned with one of the base’s corners facing up – was built in the Memorial Park, in the corner of its metal fencing. Viewed from the street, it appeared geometrically ordered, while the park view revealed a less structured, more poetic aspect.
In the striking rocky fiord scenery of Lysekil, in the Isle of Släggö, Sweden, Ludwika Ogorzelec explored a new opportunity to develop the theme of transparency using glass which she had first addressed in Crete in 1993. This time, she created not just one structure of glass strips but three, varying in size. Perfectly integrated into their surroundings, from a distance they appeared as a single gleaming form. Called Transparency II, this sculpture from Space Crystallization cycle was addressed to the crews and passengers of ships and boats passing by. And indeed, the artist was able to observe sea traffic getting particularly dense and also the increased presence of divers in the vicinity of the sculpture.
The project realized at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in San José, Costa Rica, was the direct consequence of her earlier exhibition at the Pardo Gallery which the museum’s director Rolando Barahona had seen the previous year in New York. The fifty-meter-long sculpture expanded beyond the museum’s post-industrial building. It attracted the attention of the minister of culture whose offices were located opposite the museum. Intrigued, he reportedly on this occasion for the first time ever visited the institution operating under his ministry’s supervision.
In 2001, Ludwika Ogorzelec was honored with the Father Józef Sadzik Award established the previous year. The late Father Sadzik was the director of the Éditions du Dialogue publishing house and the Pallottine Center for Dialogue in Paris. The award expresses “an appreciation to those who in the situation of the deep divide existing between modern culture and the Catholic Church do not escape modernity but bravely search for mutual understanding and build bridges by exploring beyond the comfort zone of stereotypes and habits.”
The artist’s most important project realized in 2002 was Dialog 2, the presentation of eight artists at the famous Edinburgh International Festival. The idea of the sculpture, composed of wood lines , explored the multiple variations within a structure built of a single continuous line annexing a monumental exhibition space. The underlying idea was to question the viewers’ stereotypical perception of sculpture as an object and instead to focus their attention on space itself. They could climb the structure so for the first time her sculpture could be viewed from multiple levels rather than – as usual – from just one level of the floor.
During the Bosc: Art in Nature (bosc means “tree” in Catalonian) symposium organized by the Cat’Art Center in Montbel in the French Pyrenees, Ludwika Ogorzelec for the first time employed the white line to build a structure intervening into the surrounding natural landscape. The material used to construct her new Space Crystallization project in the forest of Montbel was a long strip of industrial cotton fabric. It proved a seminal new development introducing the color white to Ogorzelec’s work. It has since remained an important aspect of her projects, providing a sublime contrast to the natural colors of the sky, earth, and trees.
Increasingly fascinated with white, she searched for a suitable material and for her next project in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in France in 2002 she discovered cellophane, very thin plastic film used for packaging and protecting fragile objects in transport. The material has different physical properties than the hard line of wood, metal or glass. It is soft, pliable and elastic and thus it requires a different approach, based on balancing tensions, to transform it into “crystals of space”. It has brought new possibilities for expression. Importantly, the new material has also reduced the amount of strenuous physical effort required by monumental linear interventions into space: it has made the artist’s work less exhausting physically. Weather-resistant and light-absorbing cellophane can be integrated into the surrounding space and in the night it only needs subtle illumination to transform into a light object sublimely glowing in darkness. Since then, Ogorzelec has created many sculptures using transparent cellophane to make densely woven monumental structures that appear white, luminous and lightweight.
The same material was used at the Lafayette College Art Gallery in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 2003. In My Eye Level (III), Ogorzelec revisited the idea filling the gallery space from the ceiling down to her eye level (150 cm) with the structure of white cellophane line. The structure expanded into the lobby as if penetrating through a glazed wall and then continued outdoors, potentially growing into infinity.
In the same year, another sculpture was constructed at the National Art Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria, using the same material. Challenging and overcoming the project’s limited circumstances, Ogorzelec created an exquisite sculpture.
The site-specific sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle made during the Art Festival at the Pupik Hotel in Schrattenberg, Austria, surprised with a strikingly original idea. The regular white pyramid was inscribed into the treetop of a dead apple tree which was thus offered the “second life in the world of art”. It also made a surreal light object glowing in the dark. At the Sculpture in Wood Symposium in Griffen, Austria, Ludwika Ogorzelec presented a new Instrument of Equilibrium: a five-meter-high mobile “harp”.
The following year 2004 was marked by a monumental realization at the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław. The new installment of My Eye Level (IV) continued the idea of the artist’s eye level as a perceptual and mental frame of reference. The white linear structure began inside the museum’s former monastic Gothic building, penetrated through its brick walls and dispersed like fog at the height of 150 cm. Circling the arcaded cloisters surrounding a serene courtyard garden, the visitors had at some point to lower their heads just like the monks who had once walked the cloisters lost in prayer.
The group exhibition organized in the same year at the garden of Bernhold Kulisz’s residence in Vienna proved a very inspiring experience. The owner of the somewhat neglected palace surrounded by a park-like garden, an eccentric aristocrat, a pianist, and marathon runner, was known for disliking contemporary art. In the construction of her structure of white elastic line, which penetrated the spaces between trees in the park like puffs of fog, she incorporated the gongs from Kulisz’s collection as anchoring weights. On his evening running routine, Kulisz would move from one gong to another and by striking them performed improvised music. The public was delighted and so was Kulisz himself. In the small town of Rust, Austria, located among vineyards close to the border with Hungary, Ludwika Ogorzelec again used white elastic line to build the ephemeral Cloud sculpture on the roof of the house of Sabina Riedel who operated a private experimental art center.
In the same year, she participated in the Coup de Foudre Art Festival on Castle Hill in Bar-le-Duc, France, curated by art critic from Paris Françoise Monnin. The festival coincided with the ceremony of erecting the replacement copy of the figure of the Virgin and Child topping the tower of the local church which had been hit by lightning in the previous year. So, fittingly, the striking thunder was the festival’s theme. Ludwika Ogorzelec built a twelve-meter-high pyramid of white elastic line: its tip pierced the corner of the castle’s courtyard like an arrow, while the whole form appeared to slide down the scarp. In the night, the sculpture transformed into a luminous light object visible from many kilometers away.
The year 2005 began with the artist’s individual exhibition at the prestigious Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York’s district of Chelsea. The exhibition showcased not only a new Space Crystallization installment but also new Instruments of Equilibrium. The subtle structure of white elastic line filled the gallery’s upper section penetrating through its glazed vitrine and the external wall into the street. Unlike the earlier works informed by a similar idea, the structure’s bottom boundary did not refer to the artist’s eye level but expanded into very diverse shapes, some of them seemingly violating the laws of physics and thus questioning the standard perception of space.
Afterwards, Ludwika Ogorzelec was invited to work even further away from Paris and Poland, to the Antipodes. In Australia, she took part in three artistic projects: the Farming with Mary Art Symposium in the Mary River Valley; the Floating Land Art Symposium in Noosa, Queensland, where she put up the fifty-meter-long Mutant sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle; and an educational project at Noosa Pengari Steiner School. In 2006, she created new strikingly original pieces from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle at a large privately-owned estate at Woombye near Brisbane, Australia. She called them My Gulag in reference to the extremely difficult working conditions. Made of tropical wood and stone, the linear structures incorporating mobile elements enveloped rocks scattered around the park and together created a spatial situation akin to the Space Crystallization concept.
As the year 2006 turned into 2007, Ludwika Ogorzelec continued working in Australia. Under the Public Art Residency Program, she realized another Space Crystallization project in Albury. Of white elastic line, she built a monumental structure that followed the course of a staircase, its bottom section penetrating into a patio and top expanding beyond the building’s roof and seemingly projecting into infinity.
In the same year 2007, she had a six-month-long individual exhibition at the Toronto Sculpture Garden in Toronto, Canada. It was enthusiastically reviewed by art critic, author and artist John K. Grande in the influential American journal Sculpture. She also revisited the Galeria Pilar Riberaygua in Andorra, operated by the late founder’s widower Joseph Sarle, with her second solo show. Alongside a new Space Crystallization piece, the exhibition featured her spatial drawings done with the metal and glass line, set into heavy frames of rusted steel and illuminated with twinkling diode light. In the same year, Ludwika Ogorzelec participated in the Mirror of Nature open-air workshop at Stara Morawa in the Valley of Kłodzko, Poland. The exhibition staged following the workshop at the historic Arsenal in Wrocław featured her Shot, yet another piece from the Space Crystallization cycle. It was a true feat of artistic engineering: in the atmospheric setting of the stone-paved courtyard, the delicate structure of transparent line kept a heavy, medieval stone cannon ball suspended 10 cm above the ground.
The year’s beautiful and emotional accent was the honoring of Ludwika Ogorzelec with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta in recognition of her underground activity for Fighting Solidarity: she was decorated by President Lech Kaczyński.
The year 2008 was marked by the artist’s projects in Poland, Latvia, and Canada. In Kolibki Park in Gdynia, a sixty-meter-long structure constructed of white elastic line was an ideally horizontal plane cutting through the forest thus revealing the usually obscured scenic relief of the wooded terrain. In the Galeria Sztuki Najnowszej [Newest Art Gallery] in Gorzów Wielkopolski, the new Space Crystallization sculpture expanded to take over the gallery’s four rooms: the transparent linear structure of stretched elastic cellophane created surreal space situations as the visitors entered and perused the form resembling a capsule. In the same year, during the Sculpture Quadrennial in Riga, Latvia, the new realization from Space Crystallization cycle extended into public space as it spread above the street to connect the National Concert Hall with the Finance Ministry Building: it was fittingly entitled Between Art and Money. The subsequent installment of the Space Crystallization cycle was Atlantis, the sublime white sculptures floating on a lake created during the Land Art Symposium in the Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton, Canada (among its participants were also Emilie Brzezinski and Nils Udo).
Since 2009, Ludwika Ogorzelec has been giving individual titles to her Space Crystallization sculptures to emphasize the work’s principal idea or allude to some particular circumstances of its creation. And so, realized in the Zamek [Castle] Culture Center in Poznań, Poland, a white linear structure climbed the stairs Reaching for the Impossible. The airy Breeze spread above Plac Kobzdeja in Gdańsk, Poland, and Tornado whirled around the colonial coastal fort West Martello Tower in Key West, Florida. The latter project, realized under the Key West Sculpture program, was honored with the Grand Esplanade Award. In 2010, Atlantis II emerged in the Botanical Garden in Key West. The same year brought also My Gulag II at the Centre d’Art Contemporain du Luxembourg belge and Parisian Tensions at the Galerie Roi Doré in Paris.
2011–2018. SPACE CRYSTALLIZATION IN THE FAR EAST
AND IN POLAND
The year 2011 marked the beginning of a new stage in Ludwika Ogorzelec’s artistic biography defined by her particularly intensive contacts with art communities in the Far East: China, Vietnam, and South Korea. Concurrently, she would also receive many invitations to realize her sculptures in various regions of Poland. This has been very important to Ogorzelec as she has always considered herself a Polish artist wherever her projects took her. She has ever since continued to move between the Far East, her studio in Paris, and Poland, occasionally realizing projects elsewhere in Europe and America.
In 2011, sponsored by KGHM Polish Copper, she took part in an international artist-in-residence program at the Shangyuan Art Museum in Beijing, China, where she realized a new site-specific Space Crystallization sculpture of white line, a cycle of drawings, two costumes for Chinese dance theater and a sculpture from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle that was subsequently retained in the Museum’s collection.
In Exeter, England, she took part in the Before the Crash exhibition, a group show curated by Canadian physicist Professor Philippe Young. In the town’s historic castle, she constructed The Breathing Cloud (Space Crystallization cycle): a monumental structure (30 × 20 × 6 m) of white elastic line which rose and descended in reaction to gusts of wind. The piece impressed the public and critics alike: Elena Goukassian wrote a long article on the work published in Sculpture.
The following year, in 2012, Ludwika Ogorzelec was again invited to Beijing, this time to the Sanshang Museum of Contemporary Art. There, she realized the Dancing with the Line sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle: this time she employed black line to create a dramatic form annexing the monumental space of the museum hall. The opening of the exhibition was accompanied by a Chinese contemporary dance performance by Shi Xiaojuan attired in a red dress purpose-designed and made by Ogorzelec. The dress featured extremely long sleeves whose ends were affixed to the opposite walls. Improvised to live music, the dance continued the theme of dramatic tensions.
In the same year, Ludwika Ogorzelec made another spectacular sculpture: The Witches Dance (Space Crystallization cycle), this time in Plac Artystów (Artists’ Square) in downtown Kielce, Poland. Its theme and title referred to the legend of covens taking place on the nearby mountain called Łysa Góra. The exhibition’s opening was accompanied by a light-and-sound show that complemented the sculpture. For the art collection of Dorota and Tomasz Tworek, who sponsored the artistic action in Plac Artystów, Ludwika Ogorzelec built The Paradise Tree, a beautiful iron and glass sculpture from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle, in their residence at Masłów near Kielce. In 2012, she also realized the spectacular Stratification sculpture (Space Crystallization cycle) in the Platinum Lofts in Wrocław, a post-industrial building revitalized by Archicom SA.
In 2013, the next sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle called Laboratory of Emotions was built at the Galeria Muzalewska in Poznań. It annexed the whole gallery space comprising two rooms and a corridor so upon entering the gallery the viewer was immediately forced to become an active participant. The tensile energy of stretched transparent line cutting through the whole gallery transformed the space’s emotional charge cajoling people into sensual collaboration with the structure. In the same year, Ogorzelec made another Space Crystallization sculpture in Spoleto, Italy. This time, it stretched low above the ground. Fittingly entitled From Above, it was designed not only for viewing from an elevated vantage point but also for interactive sinking into its inside.
The year closed with yet another site-specific Space Crystallization project. The piece called Intellectual Tensions was realized in the Main Reading Room of the University Library in Warsaw, Poland. The monumental space, furnished with bookshelves, populated by absorbed readers, and filled with an almost palpable quietude and aura of intense concentration, inspired the piece’s idea. The expansive structure of elastic white line was gently stretched, somewhat obliquely, across the hall’s elongated and lofty space dominated by a double row of vertical columns. The intervention’s dynamism was emphasized by two arrow-like forms colliding in the center. Ogorzelec explains: “By creatively visualizing the invisible phenomenon of crossing thoughts (lines), I strove not only to build an aesthetic object but also to touch the ‘primal sensitivity’ of human (reader) and create a situation that would make him or her part of the whole project.”
In 2014, Ludwika Ogorzelec returned to the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle by realizing a number of small mobile sculptures made of brass lines, stone, and optical glass at the Galeria Pilar Riberaygua in Andorra. The lace-like linear structures cast intricate shadows on the gallery walls that became an integral part of the show. The exhibition also comprised a new Space Crystallization piece constructed of white lines climbing the staircase. In the same year, Ogorzelec made her third trip to Beijing revisiting the residency program at the Shangyuan Art Museum. There she exhibited a cycle of drawings executed during the program and ideas for new Space Crystallization pieces to be constructed in China in the future.
In 2015, the artist continued to share her time between Poland and the Far East, this time not only China but also South Korea and Vietnam. In Poland, the Town Hall in Wrocław commissioned Ogorzelec to create a sculpture in the alleys within the Town Hall block situated in the center of the historic town square. She came up with the Passages (Space Crystallization cycle): for six months, the airy six-partite linear structure stretched between historic buildings appeared like a meteor shower above the charming narrow streets.
During the Sea Art – Busan Biennale in South Korea, Ogorzelec realized her third sculpture on rocks emerging from the sea. This one, entitled The Breath of the Sea (Space Crystallization cycle) was constructed of elastic white line and not of glass as the two earlier projects. In Hanoi, Vietnam, invited by the owners of Heritage Space, a privately-owned and operated art center, Ogorzelec built a new Space Crystallization sculpture and called it Thought Freed in reference to the current events in Poland. After years of efforts to marginalize him politically, Kornel Morawiecki, the legendary leader of Fighting Solidarity and Ogorzelec’s boss in the time of her underground activity, was elected to Parliament and as its Senior Marshall had just opened the first session of the newly elected Parliament with an uplifting speech. For the third time, Ogorzelec was also an artist-in-residence at the Shangyuan Art Museum in Beijing where she continued to create drawings and developing new designs for site-specific sculptures.
In 2016, she made another trip to South Korea, this time to the Art Festival in Ulsan where she realized Tango, yet another Space Crystallization sculpture, revealing a new facet of her vision: two seven-meter high vertical forms of white elastic line rising in the middle of a small round plaza appeared engaged in an interactive dance. In the fall of that year, Ogorzelec spent some time at the Shangyuan Art Museum in Beijing which she combined with participation in the Polish Art Festival in Beijing organized by the Kręgi Sztuki [Art Circles] Foundation: there, she created Breathing Cloud II (Space Crystallization cycle) at the entrance to the 1+1 Art Center.
In 2017, she realized Invisible Tensions (Space Crystallization cycle) at the Jing’an Sculpture Park in the Art Center in Shanghai, China: she was invited as part of a collaborative project with the Philippe Staib Gallery in New York. She was offered a monumental underground gallery in the Jing’an Sculpture Park where she created a monumental sculpture (10 × 9 × 8 m) that expanded outside the underground space to “blossom” on the roof of the building. The striking apparition attracted attention and invited people to venture inside.
In the same year, another Space Crystallization installment, evocatively called The Spectrum of the Middle Ages, appeared in the upper courtyard of Malbork Castle, the Gothic seat and stronghold of the Teutonic Knights. Ludwika Ogorzelec contrasted the courtyard’s deep well and thick walls with a light tensile structure of white line: its three parts seemed to dance in the air ready to take off and break free from the walled enclosure. A similarly romantic scenery was provided by the medieval stone Dringenberg Castle in Germany where Ogorzelec realized a sculpture called The Dark Ages (Space Crystallization cycle) composed of two complementary forms, one in the courtyard, the other in the Main Hall on the upper floor.
The year’s work was continued during yet another trip to China. At the Art Fair in Shanghai, Ogorzelec exhibited her art in the form large-format photographs and she also spent some time as an artist-in-residence at the Copper Factory where she created a new sculpture from the Instruments of Equilibrium cycle: a structural model of wood lines to be cast in bronze and subsequently featured at a major international exhibition in 2019.
In early 2018, she revisited China again to spend three months as an artist-in-residence in Hainan Island in the South China Sea, the program organized under the auspices of Cheng Xiaobei, director of the Shangyuan Museum in Beijing and financed by privately-owned China Silverfield Company. Upon returning to Europe, she realized the monumental 2 × Tension sculpture from the Space Crystallization cycle in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. The project accompanied the 53rd Film Festival and the site was located in the vicinity of the historic Imperial Bath.
The year 2018 marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Ludwika Ogorzelec’s career as an independent artist since her graduation from the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. Throughout all these years, she has systematically and persistently followed her own way and her original, innovative program formulated in writing in the early 1990s. Over the years, it has been realized through multiple projects and it has also evolved in response to the artist’s multifarious experience with space. Ludwika Ogorzelec has simultaneously continued her two cycles: the original Instruments of Equilibrium, comprising structures constructed with inflexible line, and the related Crystallization of Space which originated ten years later.
The majority of Space Crystallization sculptures, always built as site-specific structures, were of limited duration and now only exist in the form of photographic documentation. These created of permanent materials show that there exists some yet untapped but great potential in Ogorzelec’s work – and that perhaps the time has now come for its realization. It would enhance many sites across the world with original sculptures letting us rediscover both the sublime beauty of particular space configurations and the unique value of each individual and their creative potential, enhanced and stimulated by contact with thus “crystallized” space.
Edited by Elżbieta Łubowicz and Ludwika Ogorzelec