The opening isn’t until February, but we want to note already what looks like an extraordinary upcoming exhibition at the POLIN museum in Warsaw that enlarges on a theme we have dealt with several times here on JHE — how artists have been inspired by Jewish built heritage.
The exhibition is called Frank Stella and Synagogues of Historic Poland. It presents a collection of works by the contemporary American painter that were inspired by the Polish wooden synagogues that were destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust — his interest was sparked, in fact, by the seminal book Wooden Synagogues, by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka.
Along with Stella’s works, historic photographs and architectural drawings of the synagogues and other material will be shown.
The POLIN museum states that the exhibition, which runs from February 19-June 20, 2016, is “the first assembly of works by Frank Stella from his extraordinary Polish Village Series juxtaposed with their sources of inspiration.”
In the early 1970s, Stella (b. 1936) was captivated and then motivated by a book by Polish architects Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka entitled Wooden Synagogues (1959) to create a series of large-scale irregular wall constructions, collaged and painted, along with innovative prints, scaled wooden models, and precise drawings on the subject. Each work is named after a town in Poland in which a wooden synagogue had once stood. All the synagogues have since been destroyed.
The POLIN Museum exhibition will include ca. 40 original works by the artist drawn from international collections, as well as historical architectural drawings and documentary photographs of synagogues taken before WWII.
The exhibition will follow Stella’s sources of inspiration, i.e. pre-war photographs and architectural drawings of synagogues created as part of the inventory conducted by the Warsaw University of Technology’s Polish Architecture Unit, with which the Piechotkas closely cooperated. Many of the photographs were taken by Szymon Zajczyk, a Jewish cataloguer and art historian who perished in the Warsaw ghetto. Visitors will be able to follow subsequent stages of Frank Stella’s work on the Polish Villages: preparatory and dimensional drawings, wooden monochromatic relief models, painted cardboard models and finally the process’ culmination –large format painted reliefs.
The 85-percent-scale recreation of the painted ceiling and roof of the 17th century wooden synagogue that once stood in Gwoździec, now a permanent installation at POLIN Museum, will also feature at the exhibition.