Wacław Szpakowski. Riga Notebooks.
From 4 March to 30 April 2023, the exhibition Wacław Szpakowski. Riga Notebooks. organized by the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw and the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, is presented in the 4th Floor Exhibition Halls of the main building of the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga (Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1).
The exhibition is dedicated to the work of the Polish pioneer of geometric abstraction, architect and engineer Wacław Szpakowski (1883–1973) commemorating his 140th anniversary of birth and the 50th anniversary of death.
Szpakowski was born in Warsaw, Poland, but he and his family moved to Riga in 1897, where he began studying architecture at the Riga Polytechnic Institute (now Riga Technical University) in 1902. In addition to his studies, the young man was interested in meteorology and researched atmospheric phenomena such as hurricanes, cyclones and storms, writing down facts and observations in notebooks.
The notebooks that Szpakowski filled with notes and sketches while living in Riga reveal the topics that interested him and his artistic path. Many notebooks contain lists: books on historical and vernacular architecture, archaeology and engineering. In other notebooks, Szpakowski focuses on various atmospheric phenomena, paying particular attention to the sounds that accompany them.
These notebooks also provide an insight into the methodology of his lifelong project Rhythmical Lines. The visual motifs that Szpakowski observed in nature (human faces, plants, animals) and in man-made forms (architectural elements), in sounds heard in nature and in musical compositions – all preoccupied his mind. In the artist’s concept of rhythmical lines, as in the pages of his notebooks, everything is gradually reduced to the purest, most abstract forms.
The work of Wacław Szpakowski remained unknown until 1978, when author’s legacy was exhibited at Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Later, his drawings were displayed in museums and galleries in Warsaw, Brussels and New York (among others), in solo shows and group exhibitions, creating a dialogue and encounter with the modernists and abstractionists of the time, as well as the younger generation, who continue to be inspired by the abstract language of art. In 2012, Szpakowski’s work was included in the exhibition Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Self-portrait. 1902. Photograph (the inscription: For dear Daddy Wacek took a self-portrait). Collection of the Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź. Publicity photo
The exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art is the first presentation of the oeuvre of Wacław Szpakowski in the Baltic States. The exposition offers a wide range of the author’s innovative compositions, including a number of unpublished archival materials. These materials grant a closer look at Szpakowski and make it possible to explore his links with Latvia. The works on view reveal different – non-figurative – ways of seeing, understanding, showing, and engaging with the world around us.
The exhibition is complemented by a varied education programme. The children’s audience will have an opportunity to get to know Szpakowski’s oeuvre through information material and participation in the art studio Me and Art activities.
In order to ensure the accessibility of the exhibition to different groups of society, in cooperation with Latvian Radio and Latvian Television news portal LSM.lv, the texts of the exposition are also available in easy language. In addition, eight of the artworks are created in tactile format, allowing visitors explore them by touch.