Black and white photography series
Various sizes, print on baryta paper, developed in cold water.
Throughout the entire 1992, her fourth year of studies at the Faculty of Sculpture of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, Katarzyna Kozyra was photographing Andrzej Karaś, her friend and roommate from the flat on Rakowiecka Street in Warsaw, and artist of statuesque appearance. At the time, Kozyra was not attending classes at the Academy. Professor Kowalski decided to give her course credit for the series of photographs of Karaś she presented. In the same year Kozyra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Morbus Hodgkin). Her fight against the illness lasted until March 1996, when she went into remission. This almost year-long collaboration gave birth to several series presenting the model (his last name was used to give the titles to each) in various situations. Common themes in all the series include nudity, eroticism and an impression of looking at still life, despite the model being always in the foreground. They bring to mind games played using household items: a sheet as a background, curtains, potted plants.
Black and White Polaroids
‘Polaroids’ play with ambiguity. What they all have in common is the figure of a model of classical stature and the purist mise-en-scene of the white background featuring a slightly creased fabric. Posing in a relaxed manner, the model holds two reed stalks in his hands; arranged differently each time, the stalks lend the figure a dynamic lightness, even a spiritual dimension. […] The model alternatively represents Apollo, Dionysius, Atlas and Adonis. But he may also personify Biblical figures; he has a lot in common with widely known figures of angels, saints, or Old Testament Kings […] The Judeo-Christian world is in turn supplanted with shamanic energies, vibrations of some primordial cults and ritual dances […] But this is not all. Kozyra’s photographs have their roots in contemporary art and fully belong to it. Comparisons with other contemporary photographers come to mind, for example Robert Mapplethorpe.
Danuta Ćwirko-Godycka, Playing with ambiguity [in cat.:] Mystical Perseverance and Rose. Contemporary Art, State Gallery of Art, Sopot [published 1993?], p. 45
Crucian Carps in Beef
40 x 40 cm
It is a series of photographs shot in Sopot during the artists’ trip for the opening of the exhibition “Mystic Perseverance and Rose. Contemporary Art,” organised in the State Gallery of Art. This photoshoot expresses the artist’s interests beginning to revolve around decomposition and decay. Kozyra, with her characteristic perversity, shows the process by juxtaposing seemingly incongruent elements: pieces of chopped up cow’s meat with bones, and a well-groomed body of the beautiful model. Meat is here a malleable material, like clay or plasticine, whereas Karaś (“Crucian Carp”), with his characteristic statuesque posture – caresses, immerses and wraps himself in meat. Model’s nudity symbolically merges with the rawness of meat. Artist’s visits to slaughterhouses, photographing carcasses, fascination with decay, rot, ingesting, grinding, here presented in very aesthetic compositions and unique shots, which lend anthropomorphic features to the meat and carrion quality to the human body; all these fascinations led a year later to the realisation of Kozyra’s graduation piece: “Pyramid of Animals”.
Crucian Carps in Bedclothes
Working with Karaś, Kozyra organised the setting and arranged various situations in which the model had to find his footing. The scenes ranged from abstract, thoroughly created – like those with raw meat – to ordinary, mundane situations. “Crucian Carps in Bedclothes” belong to the latter category – a group of works referring to everyday life. Photographs presenting a naked man in bed, surrounded by crumpled bedclothes, may even offend due to their literal and explicit eroticism. But Kozyra would not be who she is if she was simply to photograph several frivolous scenes from above. In this series she returns to the game of levels and consistently uses contrasts, juxtaposing things and themes which are seemingly mutually exclusive, or with regard to which such a combination seems to be indecent. This is precisely the case of “Crucian Carps in Bedclothes”, where she uses figures the audience may recognise from completely different iconographic presentations: the artist shows her model posed as in the scene of crucifixion, or as Saint Sebastian. These compositions make them much more than just ordinary nudes; they become intellectual provocations.
The photographs debuted at the “Mystic Perseverance and Rose. Contemporary Art” exhibition in Sopot, in 1992.
- In 1997 Andrzej Karaś suggested to Katarzyna Kozyra she should visit Király, Turkish bath frequented mostly by gay men, but on certain days open also to women. Thanks to this visit Kozyra decided to undertake the “Bathhouse” project.
“Sculptors photograph”, exhibition catalogue, National Museum in Warsaw, 2004.
The Artist would like to thank all her collaborators and people who helped in the realisation of the project, in particular:
Paweł Althamer, Katarzyna Górna, Andrzej Karaś, Jacek Markiewicz, Ola Semenowicz, Ryszard Ziarkiewicz
The piece was created with the support of Kozyra’s mother, Alicja.