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Reflections on Everyman: The Work of Jan Sawka

 Reflections on Everyman: The Work of Jan Sawka

September 12 – December 14, 2013
Curated by Evonne M. Davis and Hanna Maria Sawka

Opening Reception September 12, 7-10 PM

New Media Screening October 12, 7 PM

Closing Reception December 14, details TBA


Newark, NJ: Gallery Aferro’s Main Gallery and New Media Room will feature a major retrospective celebrating the life and work of artist, expatriate, activist, architect and impossible-to-classify Jan Sawka (1946-2012). Sawka's body of work includes paintings, book arts, sculptures, engravings, editorial illustrations, architectural installations, monuments, new media and a 10-story stage set designed for the Grateful Dead.  Currently, a memorial exhibition of his work is on view at The National Museum in Krakow, Poland. This exhibition is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute, and with support from the Polish American Business Club and the Polish Slavic Federal Credit Union.

 Born in 1946 in Zabrze, Poland, his childhood overshadowed by his father's Stalin-era political imprisonment, by his 20’s Sawka had become the youngest member of the Polish Poster School.  Sawka’s portrayal in his art of the impact of totalitarianism on the individual led to his expulsion from Poland in 1976.  Having just won the “Oscar de la Peinture” in France, he was given a residency at the newly opened Pompidou Center in Paris.  In 1977, he arrived in New York with his wife and baby, four suitcases and a portfolio of artworks. Within a year, he became a prolific editorial illustrator for The New York Times. While producing paintings at his home studio, he designed posters and sets for the Jean Cocteau Repertory Theater, Harold Clurman Theater, and Samuel Beckett Theater, where he collaborated closely with Beckett.  By this time, he had built a gallery career in New York, Los Angeles and many other cities. 

In 1981, when Martial Law was imposed in Poland, the AFL-CIO sold Sawka's Solidarity Poster in the millions to provide immediate support to the besieged Solidarity movement. In 1993, he created his first full multi-media spectacle in Japan. At the time of his death the artist was working on numerous projects. Sawka's works are in over 60 museums around the world and he had over 70 solo exhibitions. The exhibition will focus on Jan Sawka’s concern with the human condition in today’s world, with examples of his paintings, prints and sculptures. 

As the late Professor James Beck of Columbia University wrote “He contemplates and dissects the social conditions of our moment – the absurdities of political states, the leadership, the courts, the universities – within the context of the individual caught in the labyrinth… such a condition is not differentiated from the absurdities of more human interaction, between lovers, husbands and wives.  The isolation is there too, perhaps even more so: the absence of communication, the uniformity, the blandness, the emptiness… Here too is the softened, approachable world of physical beauty, of delicacy, refinement and sensitivity.  These two struggle with one another… in Sawka’s irresistible art.”

Gallery Aferro is a nonprofit artist-originated organization serving a diverse community through the import and export of ideas. The gallery is located at 73 Market St Newark NJ, and is open Thursday-Saturday 12:00-6PM and by appt, free of charge.


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