One of the many paradoxes as a painter is the tightrope walk to maintain naivety and exuberance, while at the same time establishing a maturity and refinement within one’s work.  There are savants who have flawlessly married these fundamentally disparate elements.  Ammi Phillips, the self-taught, early American folk genius is one such example.  Henry Darger is a more contemporary example brought to public attention by Jessica Yu’s eerie documentary, In the Realms of the Unreal.  A painter currently garnering loads of similar stylistic attention is Jakub Julian Ziolkowski.  There’s one catch, however: Ziolkowski was not discovered posthumously, and in fact has many years of creativity ahead of him, being at the tender age of 30.  This combination makes for a sensational maelstrom of global attention (not to mention dollar signs in the eyes of collectors and curators).  Although, technically not as “outsider” as Phillips or Darger were (Ziolkowski learned to paint at two of Poland’s finest academies), his paintings certainly draw comparisons in their rawness and whimsy.  In the aftershock of his acclaimed Swiss exhibit, the art world waited with bated breath for Ziolkowski’s one-man show, which opened this month at Hauser & Wirth New York.  Being spit-shined as art’s latest celebrity would be hellish to say the least, though, his exhibit seems to have withstood this unenviable pressure (and even surpassed expectations) with wide spread praise.  This includes some of the kindest words I’ve seen printed by the discerning Roberta Smith in this Times review (link below).  I enjoy Ziolkowski’s work, but my appreciation is heightened by Mrs. Smith’s ability to critically vindicate the exhibit without overstepping interpretation.  Enjoy.

-joel sager

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski @ Hauser Wirth: New York Times Art Review by Roberty Smith


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