Exhibition of photographs by
February 16 – March 2, 2018
Kurier Plus Gallery, Greenpoint, Brooklyn NY
The title words, coming from the poem “Street” by Tadeusz Peiper, a Polish poet and a precursor of the avant-garde movement are, in my opinion, the essence of the photography of Marek Rygielski presented at the exhibition at Kurier Plus Gallery.
In the exhibition, under the somewhat misleading title “Manhatttan” the artist, photographer, traveler, enthusiast of lonely cycling trips, a man of many talents, presented over ten big-sized, carefully selected works; a choice from among tens or perhaps hundreds of photos taken over several years.
I claim the exhibition title misleading, since Rygielski portrayed only the Financial District and Times Square area. We all know Manhattan has many different faces – the steel and glass skyscrapers are close to lopsided, half- ruined houses in the poverty-stricken districts; apart from modern skyscrapers there is an old New York, which, although mercilessly destroyed, still exists. In addition to traffic, crowds, and the hustle and bustle of the streets, there are places to relax, take a walk and breathe; there is claustrophobia and space.
We can, however, guess the artist’s intention. He wanted to say, what we all inadvertently think – the essence, the metaphor, the visual (or mental) acronym of Manhattan is not Lower East Side or Chelsea, but the Wall Street neighborhood. This place is the city par excellence, the quintessence of the civilization, the city turned toward its center, not to the rivers or parks (although at the exhibition there is a photo of concrete steel and glass as seen from the perspective of the lawn and trees). That is Manhattan from Rygielski’s point of view.
This is the overall impression of the exhibition, the mood permeating all presented works. To be more specific, the first feature that strikes the eye is that of the vertical lines. The city soars up, higher and higher. In many cases – it creates complicated layers of vertical structures. There is only one dimension, one direction, one volatile tension. Monotonous? Maybe, but for sure an impulse energy, a dynamic vital force pushing forward, upwards, towards life. For ages nature was a symbol of vigor, but today – Rygielski tells us through his work – it is the city that represents the verve and momentum of modern life.
Manhattan is a total city, it absorbs the entire living space, it fills the frame of the photographic image. In many photographs you cannot even see the sky, only streets, car traffic and pedestrians, stone accumulation of buildings, racing up one above the other. You have the impression of some biological, Darwinian struggle for existence: up, toward the sky, toward the light of the day, toward life.
Another characteristic feature of Manhattan by Rygielski is the color. We usually see the city as gray, cement-dun, the sun rarely shines into the canyons of the streets, sometimes only flashes with a color. While, in the lens of Rygielski, New York is fabulously colorful. It shimmers with variety and wealth of colors. It seems almost unbelievable, so I asked the exhibition’s curator, Jagoda Przybylak, who carefully selected with the artist the photos to be put on show.
She assured that these are not “colored” photographs. Rygielski waited, sometimes for a long time and patiently, for the fragment of the city to be illuminated, so that he could capture it in the sun, which extracts from the walls, from buildings, from ads and billboards, authentic colors. We see them every day, but we do not pay attention, we simply do not notice them in a rush.
The authority of an excellent photographer dispels all doubts. Rygielski waited for the right shot to bring out what we do not see in everyday haste: the color of modern civilization.
In some photographs, we see Manhattan as a city; but on many – just as one solid figure, a sculpture. New York – Rygielski says – is a great work of art; let’s look at it as a fantastic, contemporary form with many shapes and curves; as a polyhedron, geometric mass filled with movement, sound, and color.
I watch once again the photos on the walls and I wonder: Marek Rygielski is a loner, he has a meditative, reflective nature, and in his art, he became interested in the world from which he escapes where there is space and air, where there is silence and a chance to contemplate the surroundings. How does he reconcile these two realities?
By Czesław Karkowski
published in Kurier Plus, Polish Weekly Magazine, February 24th, 2018
translation to English: Dorota Rygielska
edits: Emily G