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Wladyslaw Hasior (1928 - 1999)

To years ago I visited Wladyslaw Hasior in his home in Zakopane. He didn't hide his surprise when I proposed to conduct an interview with him for "Polityka" (a newsmagazine akin to Time or the Economist - trans. ). "So someone still remembers me, some still reads about me" - he asked. There wasn't a crum of false modesty or wheedling in those words. Perhaps just a bit of calm resignation.

Hasior as guest of Poznan's Art and Business Club
Hasior as guest of Poznan's Art and Business Club
Source of visual: Art and Business Club
In 1990 he was denied the opportunity of having a large one man exhibition in Warsaw's Zacheta gallery, in the paragraph "darling of communism," pointing to the "Consolidation of the Authority of the People" near Czorsztyn. He then substituted the great salons of art with the less effective work at the local level. In his atelier, under the aegis of the Tatra Museum, he met with the public, discussed his art, about his roadside chapels, cemeteries and his great passion of his last years - architecture. Though in ill-health after a serious heart attack, he received regularly groups of pensioners from the local Rehabilitation Center, several hundred each month. "Well, - he would say - I am a local artist and I manage a local community center" -he would joke. He had come to terms with the fact that his "15 minutes of fame" had passed.

And yet I was talking to an artist that for years had perturbed, engendered intense, violent reactions, ranging from hatred to adoration. Crowds always came to his showings. His assemblages are regarded among the foremost in the world, equal to those that emerged from the workshops of the creators of pop-art such as Robert Rauschenberg. In 1975, together with Tadeusz Brzozowski, he took first place is a poll of the Polish section of the International Association of Art Critics and the foremost creator since 1945.

Strange was the path of Hasior's fate. After studies in Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts he continued his studies with the great Osip Zadkin in Paris, traveled a lot. Soon, though, there occurred a sudden slackening. He was passed over when large exhibitions abroad were being assembled. "For thirty years I was kept under wraps, considered apparently, that I didn't merit to worthily represent the enthusiastic art of communist Poland" - he recalled those times. And that's a shame, for it was exactly in the first part of the 60's that Hasior's art had the chance of becoming one of our greatest assets on the world's art scene. Perhaps bypassing him in the Venice Biennale exposition was one of the gravest errors of the Polish communist regime so-called cultural politics. The green light that was accorded to his works only towards the end of the 60's augmented enormously his popularity at home, but it came too late internationally.

The belief exists that Hasior's art was very homely. That market-palace character, roadside chapel, mannequins, local accessories, Christian symbols. It's true, the artist drew from his daily environment by the fistful. He gave artistic shape to tatters of reality familiar to us all. "I don't follow any artist. My creations had their origins in my liking to tinker" - he argued. And maybe that why we cannot be indifferent to his art.

Piotr Sarzynski
August 1999

trans. Peter K. Gessner

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