The Weisman’s survey exhibition, Piotr Szyhalski: We Are Working All the Time!, features works in a variety of media across three decades of Szyhalski’s prolific and pioneering practice, including poster design, web projects, mail art, painting, installation, and public performance. The exhibition will include a number of artist-led “activations” in and around WAM, with moments of performance, printmaking, and in-gallery “office hours” by Szyhalski on select Fridays throughout the show’s run.
A Polish-born and -trained, American multimedia artist, Szyhalski has built a dynamic, richly varied body of work over the last thirty years and has exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. He is Professor of Design and Media Arts at Minneapolis College of Art and Design; his work as an educator is deeply intertwined with his artistic practice. This survey is the first exhibition to feature artworks spanning the breadth of his extraordinary career, critically considered together.
Most recently, Szyhalski is best known for his daily chronicle of life in America during the height of the pandemic: COVID 19: Labor Camp Report (2021). For the Report he created a new, hand-drawn poster each day for 225 days—a vivid visual digest of current “news shrapnel”—shared via the Labor Camp Instagram feed. The COVID Report posters, which received national and international press attention, will be on view as part of the exhibition at WAM—all the more compelling when experienced in the context of ideas threaded through his larger body of work.
Szyhalski started his training in Poland, at the time under martial law, in the midst of a rising tide of sweeping change known as Solidarność (Solidarity); his early career was steeped in the artistic milieu of the postwar generation of Polish conceptual artists, whose politics both before and after the workers’ revolution were marked by a persistent skepticism about totalizing views of any kind.
As a cross-media artist working deliberately in resistance to the unique, precious object, Szyhalski’s work is difficult to present, catalog, and reproduce. Much of his work is ephemeral and insistently of the moment, including time-based, multimedia performative works and unique interactive pieces not made to be collected at all. He imagines the work, once produced, as let go and given to others in the way it is used, contemplated, and remembered.
Given the dynamic nature of his artistic practice, the work of producing a survey exhibition was especially difficult. To honor his practice and core beliefs, WAM collaborated closely with the artist in the production of Piotr Szyhalski: We Are Working All The Time! to determine which objects, remnants, and reiterations would be included in the galleries and accompanying book.
The exhibition catalog, published by the Weisman and edited by senior curator Diane Mullin and on sale in the WAM Shop, includes long overdue new scholarship on Szyhalski’s career and close to a hundred images, placing the artist’s work in the larger, international context of contemporary art, from the 1980s to today. Together, the survey exhibition and accompanying book offer a new, more comprehensive view of Szyhalski’s Labor Camp, physically and theoretically, than ever before compiled.
ABOUT PIOTR SZYHALSKI
Image courtesy MCAD
Piotr Szyhalski’s work has been exhibited worldwide at such venues as the International Center of Photography, the New York Expo Film Festival, Siggraph, ISEA Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the San Jose Museum of Art, and Experimenta Design in Lisbon, Portugal, and featured in a variety of catalogs and publications. His pieces are in the collections of the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and others.
In addition to his own performance-based projects, he was commissioned to develop large-scale, interactive, live projections for Wim Mertens quartet in Brussels (1998), the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (2001), and VocalEssence (2004). He released two CDs as Labor Camp Orchestra for the multimedia installations Theater of Operations (2007, 2009).