Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust introduces forgotten works by some of Poland’s best known “folk” artists from the postwar People’s Republic of Poland, discovered in Polish and German ethnographic museums and private collections.
Władysław Chajec’s "Nazis" (1967), Adam Zegadło’s "Shared Fate" (1969), Wacław Czerwiński’s "The Last Embrace" (1983), Zygmunt Skrętowicz’s "Auschwitz" series (1963) and over twenty additional works tell about the Holocaust as seen from up close, from a “bystander’s” perspective. Some obscure the specifically Jewish character of the genocide, framing it instead as Catholic Polish martyrology or a universal human tragedy.
These objects are complex documents born of various impulses: their creators are artists, but also collectors, ethnographers, curators, ideologues. The oldest example is a painting from (ca.) 1948 by Sławomir Kosiniak from Zalipie, a village famous for its decorative floral motifs. Recently discovered in the archives of the Kraków Ethnographic Museum, it presents the round-up of local Jews. The most recent work is "Jedwabne" by Jan Kowalczyk, commissioned by a German collector in 2017.
Curators: Erica Lehrer, Roma Sendyka, Wojciech Wilczyk, and Magdalena Zych