Counter Forms: Tetsumi Kudo, Alina Szapocznikow, Paul Thek, Hannah Wilke brings together work by four artists who were each working against the grain of the rigid geometric forms, industrial sheen or dry, immaterial practices that characterizes some of the Minimalism or Conceptual art dominant during the 1960s and 70s. Though likely unaware of the others’ practices, they each created complex bodies of work that resonate and share concerns with the others, and remain deserving of greater attention.
Alternately strange, gangly, raw, and bodily, the works on view are the responses of artists who opted for a sculptural and pictorial practice that often involved found elements mixed with material agglutinations, body casting, a visceral sensuality, biting humor, and elaborate hand-work. Whether their immediate contexts were post-war America, post-Holocaust Poland, or post-Hiroshima Japan, the existing oeuvres of these artists are haunted materially and actually by a disaster and disintegration that is quite at odds with the clean, optimistic, and perfected forms that more widely circulated in their epoch.
The exhibition's curator, Elena Filipovic contributed to introducing Alina Szapocznikow’s work to a wider public through a retrospective exhibition that she co-curated, Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955-1972 which traveled to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles last year. Through the research and work on that exhibition, she was struck by the parallels between some of Szapocznikow’s work and Kudo’s, as well as Thek’s, and Wilke’s, and how significant their visceral materiality is, still, to art making today.
The exhibition is a rigorously researched show, bringing together rarely seen historic works by each of the artists and involving many loans from institutional and private collections, archives and estates of the artists.