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Appropriations in Tadeusz Kantor's Paintings

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The present paper takes up the question of appropriations in paintings by Tadeusz Kantor. In the artist's quotation-based production two stages have been distinguished. The first is connected with the idea of the lowest-rank reality and is mainly represented by a group of museum emballages. The second stage is linked with the concept of the past as a sole concrete reality, being represented by a cycle of pictures entitled 'Dalej juz nic' (Further Nothing More), created in the last years of the artist's life. Museum emballages are those works in which there appear some borrowings from of the Velasquez portraits of the Infanta Margareta and from Goya's painting Execution of the Madrid Insurgents. These appropriations are juxtaposed with elements of the lowest-rank reality, in this case bags and other wrappings. In the 'Dalej juz nic' cycle Kantor returns once again to the above-mentioned paintings of Velasquez and Goya, situating them, however, in a different context. Despite the differences between the appropriations present in museum emballages and those which appear in the last stage of his creative activity, these quotations are in large measure an expression of one and the same artistic strategy and have little in common with traditional (pre-modern) ways of referring to the art of the predecessors. In the present paper Kantor's quotation-based output is compared, for instance, with Greenberg's model of an avant-garde work of art, with a post-modern nostalgia as seen by Guy Scarpetta. and with post-modernism in the concept of Robert Rosenblum (and in those akin to it). However, owing to a multitude of frequently contradictory connotations of these concepts (avant-garde and post-modernism), Kantor's quotation cannot be classified unequivocally. Nevertheless, the author indicates some points in common linking the artist's quotation method with the concepts constituting a permanent element of a post-modern discourse.
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  • J. Suchan, Galeria Sztuki Wspolczesnej, Bunkier Polski, pl. Szczepanski 3 A, 31-011 Krakow
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