Distributed January 15, 2003
News Service Contact: Mary Jo Curtis
Bell Gallery to present Katarzyna Kozyra: Bathhouses through March 9
The David Winton Bell Gallery will present work by one of Poland’s leading contemporary artists in a new exhibition titled Katarzyna Kozyra: Bathhouses. The exhibit opens Jan. 25, 2003, and will continue through March 9, 2003. An opening reception and slide lecture on Kozyra’s work are scheduled for Friday, Jan. 24, 2003, at 5:30 p.m. Both the exhibit and the reception are free and open to the public.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The David Winton Bell Gallery will present the work of one of Poland’s leading contemporary artists in the new exhibition, Katarzyna Kozyra: Bathhouses, opening Jan. 25, 2003, and continuing through March 9, 2003, in the List Art Center.
An opening reception has been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 24, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the gallery. Hanna Wroblewska, curator of the Zacheta Gallery of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, will present a slide lecture titled “Katarzyna Kozyra and Contemporary Polish Art” at 5:30 p.m. in List Auditorium. Wroblewska worked with Kozyra on the artist’s installations at the Polish Pavilion of the 48th Venice Biennial and on several projects at the Zacheta Gallery.
The exhibition will include two of Kozyra’s video installations, Bathhouse (1997) and Men’s Bathhouse (1999). A native and resident of Warsaw, the artist graduated in 1993 from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art, where she studied with Grzegorz Kowalski and gained public attention with her thesis work, Animal Pyramid, a sculpture composed of animal taxidermy. She is part of a generation of young female artists who revolutionized the Polish art scene in the 1990s. These women have discarded the traditional subject matter of locality and ethnicity, according to Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the Bell Gallery. Instead, they are engaging issues of feminist discourse – including identity, the body, female physicality, the contemporary concept of beauty and the other, moving Polish art into the realm of internationalism.
Bathhouse and Men’s Bathhouse begin with the premise that men and women tend to conform to stereotypes of behavior and appearance in public, while in private they behave more naturally. Both pieces were filmed at the bathhouses of the Hotel Gellert in Budapest, using cameras hidden in plastic bags and placed on or below benches in the bathhouses – without the knowledge of the participants. In the end, the installations raise additional issues of voyeurism and narcissism, as well as concepts of beauty and aging.
“These installations have raised questions about the artist’s intentions and the invasion of the bathers’ privacy,” Conklin said. “These are important concerns and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it’s interesting to note that while the press considered them controversial, none of the subjects objected when the installations were exhibited.
“Kozyra feels the secret filming was the only way to observe public versus private behavior,” Conklin continued. “She concluded that women and men go to baths for different reasons. Women go for relaxation and companionship; they engage and assist each other in the intimate activities of washing, toweling, and drying. Men go to look and be looked at; there is little interaction between them.”
In order to film in the men’s bathhouse, Kozyra disguised herself as a man, using fake body hair and covering her breasts with a towel draped over her shoulders.
“The disguise was reasonably good, and although she drew a few stares, she was not discovered,” said Conklin. “To the viewer, however, the pretense is obvious. Kozyra’s mannerisms, walk and manner of sitting – at one point cross-legged on the bench – give her away. The viewer’s attention is in this way drawn to the differences between male and female behavior.”
Scenes from the women’s bathhouse are reminiscent of paintings of bathers by Ingres, Rubens and Degas. There is a romantic quality to the film, played up by the warm yellow lighting on the bath. Aware of these references and her own tendency to see art in the women’s bathhouse, Kozyra begins the film with Ingres’s Turkish Bath.
In 1999 Men’s Bathhouse was featured at the prestigious Venice Biennial, where it received an honorable mention for “exploring and controlling the authoritarian dominion of male territory.” The Bell Gallery exhibition is the first presentation of Men’s Bathhouse in the United States.
The David Winton Bell Gallery is located in the List Art Center, 64 College St. It is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (401) 863-2932.