Body Traces
Alina Szapocznikow at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Body Traces

The exhibition “Body Traces” presented at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art was prepared in cooperation with the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. It is the next step in exploring the works of Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow and aims to present them in international context of art history.

Szapocznikow's artistic activity was short-lived—in the final years of modernism and on the verge of new trends in art—but it yielded a cycle of radical, reflexive works which embody the artist's traumatic biography—life in concentration camps and terminal illness—while resonating with Surrealist aesthetics, Nouveau Réalisme, and Pop art.
The thematic and conceptual axis at the core of her art is the human body—with its sensations, passions, and transience—as motivator, sensor, and witness; as an existential experience in the cycle of life and death. "I am convinced that of all the manifestations of the ephemeral, the human body is the most vulnerable, the only source of all joy, all suffering and all truth," she wrote.

Szapocznikow’s years of study in Prague and Paris made her versed in conventional sculptural practices. She gradually replaced the classical language of sculpture with an individual lexicon founded on imperfection, non-forms, displacement, appropriation, and unorthodox work processes—a modus operandi which culminated in the last decade of her life, following her relocation to Paris in 1963.

Concurrent with her exposure, in those years, to polymeric substances, polyester resin, and polyurethane foam, which are difficult to master, her work became more bold and provocative in content as well, focusing primarily on fragmentation, cutting, and slicing of the female body. She used a deconstructive process of trial and error, mainly through exploration of her own body. She cast it—or rather, parts of it—directly and without mediation, an indexical impression which attests to the body's gradual disintegration. At once poetic and absurd, her oeuvre of drawings and sculptural objects is full of humor and charged with sexually and ambiguity, attesting to gender reversal as a conscious act of a woman-artist within a given social context. Her painted polyester casts of body parts—leg, belly, breasts, lips—which are sometimes transformed into commodities, the "Fetish," "Souvenirs," and "Herbarium" series, as well as the sculptural configurations of personified tumors—all these undermine the modernist classification, challenging and subverting the known, the familiar, and the expected.

The exhibition at Tel Aviv Museum of Art features 65 works—sculptures and drawings—on loan from the artist's Estate, from leading Polish museums, and from private collectors.

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