Lagow - Parnas (1998) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
Once upon a time, Duda-Gracz was sought-after and adored; later, people began to be ashamed or even afraid of him. Has the time come to reinterpret him?
The artist’s œuvre is an undeniable phenomenon in Polish culture of the last 50 years. It seems that though Duda-Gracz fell silent forever in 2004, his œuvre has not said its last word.
Memento from the preventorium. (1977) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
In the 1970s, it would have been difficult to find an artist in Poland whose œuvre would meet with such a lively response in society as Duda-Gracz’s painting.
To Jozef Chelmonski. (1979) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
The resonance evoked by his exhibitions would be easier to compare with the reception of important films or generational bestsellers than with phenomena from the fine arts.
AN APOTHEOSIS OF PEACE (1977) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
Duda-Gracz’s career developed at blitzkrieg tempo. The culminating moment of the first stage in his career was an exhibition at Warsaw’s Kordegarda Gallery in December 1978.
Among the over twenty oils on canvas comprising this exhibition, he showed many of his most famous paintings that to this day define the commonly-held image of Duda-Gracz – such works as Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or, Side Gig; Pet Water Nymph; Babel 2 and Sunday 2. After its success in Warsaw, the exhibition set off on a tour of Poland. By the beginning of 1980, it had visited 14 cities.
Some thought that Duda-Gracz loved Poland; others, that he hated it. Once upon a time, on a program by Tomasz Raczek, he said: ‘I just look like that, but I have a sensitive little soul.’ Sometimes he painted the most hideous figures with great sympathy.
Self-portrait - hat. (1981) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
He felt himself to be part of that imperfect, gray world. He also thought that even the greatest monster has some light, some divine spark within.
Jurrasic paint (1984) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
This might seem to be realism, but it is also poetry. Above all, however, it is something powerfully concrete. It seems that credit for this attachment to the concrete is also due to the Katowice Academy of Fine Arts, which formed his painting technique.
Two generations. (1980) by Jerzy Duda-GraczNowa Huta Cultural Center
Today, Jerzy Duda-Gracz’s works are to be found in the collections of the National Museum in Warsaw and at galleries in Poznań and Łódź, as well as in collections in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Japan and the United States.
Text: Joanna Gościej-Lewińska / Gallery curator
Agata Duda-Gracz Collection