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Tadeusz Kantor, The Desk, 1975. Wooden desk, mannequin, and mixed media. From the collection of The Jewish Museum in New York. Photo: Marek Gardulski

The Jewish Museum presents

Tadeusz Kantor in

Sunday, November 9, 2008 - Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York, NY
Admission: $12 adults, $10 seniors, $ 7.50 students, free: children, members, free Sat. 11-5:45,  Tel: 212.423.3200
Hours: Sat.-Wed. 11-5:45, Thu. 11-8

The Art and Theater of Tadeusz Kantor is the first comprehensive presentation in the U.S. of this world-famous "total artist," who in the U.S. is known primarily as a theater director. It aims to present Kantor (1915-1990) in the full context of his creativity, as one of the 20th century's greatest artists in both the theater and the visual arts.

The Art and Theater of Tadeusz Kantor opens with a presentation of Kantor's sculpture, The Desk (1975) - which was created in connection with The Dead Class performance - one of the major works in the Jewish Museum's exhibition Theaters of Memory: Art and the Holocaust. Recently purchased by the museum, it is the first of Kantor's works to enter a major American collection. The exhibition, curated by Norman Kleeblatt, Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator, places the work of Tadeusz Kantor alongside Anselm Kiefer's The Heavenly Palaces (2004), Christian Boltanski's Monument (Odessa) (1989-2003), and George Segal's The Holocaust (1982), as well as works by Eleanor Antin, Matthew Buckingham, Fabio Mauri, and Frederic Matys Thursz.

Kleeblatt writes: "Connected with numerous avant-garde movements including Informel painting, Conceptual Art, Fluxus, and Happenings, Tadeusz Kantor found the theater to be his fullest means of expression, particularly, the Theatre of Death phase. The Desk is a sculpture related to his theatrical masterpiece, Dead Class (1975). In this harrowing performance, live actors carried effigies of their younger selves, an evocation of the tragic history Kantor lived through during World War II. Kantor proclaimed in his Theatre of Death an existential despair in the face of political conflict and senseless annihilation. Born in Wielopole in eastern Poland, a town with a sizable Jewish community, Kantor kept his Jewish roots purposefully ambiguous. Yet his work from the very beginning was founded on remembrance of the "Jewish, amputated part of Polish culture." For an artist who grew up between the omnipresent Catholic Church and the Jewish cemetery of his hometown, the Cross and the ghost-like figure of the body of a young boy are universal symbols of death, martyrdom, and loss."

The Art and Theater of Tadeusz Kantor also includes a unique occasion to view original performances of his work: screenings of filmed records of Kantor's performances from his Theatre of Death phase will be projected (November 10-16) at La MaMa. The series will continue on January 26, 2009, with a one-day International Conference at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, CUNY Graduate Center, where Kantor's work as both theater and visual artist will be discussed by specialists.

Kantor is to Polish art what Joseph Beuys was to German art, what Andy Warhol was to American art. He created a unique strain of theatre, was an active participant in the revolutions of the neo-avant-garde, a highly original theoretician, an innovator strongly grounded in tradition, an anti-painterly painter, a happener-heretic, and an ironic conceptualist. Apart from that, Kantor was an untiring animator of artistic life in post-war Poland, one could even say, one of its chief motivating forces. His greatness derives not so much from his oeuvre, as from Kantor himself in his entirety, as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk that consists of his art, his theory, and his life.

- Jaroslaw Suchan, director of Museum of Art in Lodz, curator of Tadeusz Kantor. Interior of Imagination, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw 2005

... the fundamental (if I may use this pathetic word) idea behind my creative work has been and is the idea of reality, which I labeled the Reality of the Lowest Rank. It can be used to explain my paintings, emballages, poor objects, and equally poor characters...

- Tadeusz Kantor, A Little Manifesto. Original typescript from the Cricoteka Archives, 1978

Kantor at La MaMa - Schedule and descriptions

International Kantor Conference at MESTC, CUNY

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