July 12 - September 16, 2005
Opening Reception: Saturday, July 30th, 7-11pm
Szukalski's bronze sculpture bridged burgeoning 20th century art movements only to fall into obscurity until the efforts of Glenn Bray, Lena Zwalve, George DiCaprio and his son Leonardo DiCaprio reawakened interest. His work has been called "bent classicism." Szukalski was perhaps a narcissist of the highest order, as he considered himself "without antecedent or influences," while managing, according to his admirers, to fuse the movement and energy of Futurism, the emotion of Impressionism and the geometric configurations of Cubism into a single poetic form. He is quoted as saying, "I put Rodin in one pocket, Michelangelo in the other and I walk towards the sun."
Szukalski left his native Poland for the United States, where in 1920's Chicago he fell in with the likes of soon-to-be Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht, poet Carl Sandburg and the notorious Scopes-trial defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. He later returned to Europe where he was recognized in his native Poland by the Ministry of Art as "the country's greatest living artist," and a museum was built in his honor. After his return to Chicago, World War II detroyed much of Poland and the entire museum, thus laying the groundwork for his fall into obscurity.
The heft and intricacy of the pieces, complete with decorative flourishes of Art Nouveau as well as primitive pre-Columbian motifs have been called "emotionally theatrical." In 2001 a retrospective was mounted at the Laguna Museum of Art and a reviewer for the LA Times noted that "As a man and an artist he thrived on bold gestures...his work aspires to the monumental, regardless of the physical scale...muscles are taut and exaggerated...he fetishized the mythic," and then went on to compare his aesthetic and production to "Mathew Barney's staged, over-the-top epics in film, photography and installation." Like Mathew Barney, Szukalski works from charged ego-maniacal obsessions---tortured and heroic figures drawn from pop, classical and primitive culture collide to produce mysterious and symbol-laden fascinations. Another critic called Szukalski's large bronze busts "As powerful and overbearing as a faith healing."