Feb 5 – Mar 19, 2022
Agata Bogacka’s exhibition Inequality questions the ubiquity of unbalanced power relations at every level of society by visualizing uneven structural dynamics. Her remarkable abstract paintings demonstrate a commitment to art making as an object of knowledge, a form of analysis that is grounded in the scrutiny of base relationships. It is not simply that the painter “depicts” social situations and conflicts like a diagram, but rather that such relations are demonstrated as manifest material conditions on the canvas. The bare disposition of paint, the particular ways that gradated fields of colour come into contact, is at once a demonstration of a concrete and formal interchange and serve as nuanced allegories for social forces.
Where abstract painting traditions often emphasize harmonies and compositional balances, Bogacka instead elaborates formal tensions, conflicts, frictions, and imbalances. Each of the works in the exhibition feature varying planes of colour and material that converge and spar for dominance. The canvas is used as a site of interaction and discord where territories are marked, surfaces are bifurcated, intensities distributed, and discrepancies and divergences are actualized. By depicting internal contradictions and oppositions within seemingly unified wholes, Bogacka’s paintings can be regarded as dialectical, yet there is no synthesis here, no resolution, only persistent dissensus. Thus, the artist elaborates a fundamental asymmetry in relations, a certain incommensurability between opposing forces that gives a view into rudimentary dynamics of inequality.
It may seem hyperbolic to frame Bogacka’s alluring abstractions as having a subversive political potential. We have come to expect politically or socially-oriented art practice to either represent politics as such or immerse the art work into lived realities. Yet it is precisely painting’s perceived autonomy, its isolation from the world, its interiority, that allows the medium its critical potential. As a practice, painting is grounded in actual, material, relations of production, an interplay of surface, support, and substance.
The painting serves as a site for concretely tabulating information, a frame for the emergence of “pure situations”, as the artist has noted. Rather than requiring a conceptual leap from visual data to a referent, these pure situations reject the artificiality of representation by establishing concrete interactions. Abstraction in this case is not a means for depicting something universal, but drawing a parallel between situated, contingent, contexts, and elementary structures outside the frame. Her work pictures a very real operation: elaborating the omnipresent role of abstractions in our social reality, where real relations between people and between things are defined by ideological abstractions.
Photos: Błażej Pindor, Szymon Rogiński