Printmaking as a Pair. Jadwiga Kaim-Otręba and Ryszard Otręba

The exhibition poster shows two capital letters J and R

About exhibition

Gallery opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Ticket prices: Free entrance

We are used to looking at artists through the lens of their individuality. Yet great works come to life in a broader context – they are the result of cooperation, inspiration, interaction and, above all, emotion. The International Cultural Centre showed the exhibition Printmaking as a Pair. Jadwiga Kaim-Otręba and Ryszard Otręba, presenting a selection of works by outstanding artists, who have been married for more than half a century and who share their love of printmaking.

The joint exhibition of Jadwiga and Ryszard Otręba's works offered an insight not only into their concept of art, living and working together, but also into the image of Polish artistic life in the second half of the 20th century. – With all the differences regarding their choice of technique and formal means, their work shows a common experience of life in its many dimensions. Through this exhibition, we would like to thank both artists for the kindness and friendship they have showed our institution for many years – says Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, director of the ICC.

Jadwiga Kaim-Otręba is an artist who places humanity at the centre of her art, while her works bring a sense of acceptance of life in all its variety. Lyricism, femininity, a sensitive presentation of the prosaic and spiritual sphere of everyday life – these are the elements that can be found in her painterly graphics. It is beautiful, timeless and contemplative art.

Professor Ryszard Otręba has secured a permanent place in the history of Polish art as an artist recognised and appreciated not only in the country but also abroad. His characteristic ascetic and minimalist works are a real lesson in artistic craftsmanship and mastery in the technical aspects of printmaking. His professional artistic life was linked with the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, where he was a professor for many years. There, he created the pioneering Department of Visual Communication, which laid the foundations for a contemporary approach to design and applied arts.

The exhibition

The exhibition at the ICC was an opportunity to show the artist couple: partners and spouses who have found a way not only to share everyday life together, but also to combine it with an active participation in artistic life. This is a story about an art salon in Krakow, which was both a studio, as well as a place of international social meetings. It is a history of the realities of creative work in the demanding era of communism in Poland and above all, of the sentiment that created the foundation for the development of extraordinary talents.

By supplementing the display with large-format private photos and souvenirs, the exhibition took on a very personal, intimate character. We could see the artists on their wedding day, the creative inspirations provided by their adolescent sons, and the main prize in the ski jumping competition, in which the young Ryszard Otręba took the first place. Going against the "white cube" format of display, that is, hanging works of art in pure white space, our intention is to make viewers aware that every work of art has its real and prosaic context. An artist never creates in a vacuum. Therefore, by inviting Jadwiga and Ryszard Otręba to our gallery, we wanted to show their works through the lens of their long life together – the choices they made, the traumas they suffered, and the joys they experienced – explains the exhibition curator, Dr Monika Rydiger – These are the works of artists who are considered an almost iconic pair, two inseparable complementary personalities.

The ICC Gallery presented 50 works, 25 created by each of the artists.The collected set presented works considered to be the most famous achievements in their oeuvre, included in the collections of the most important galleries and museums in Poland and beyond.

The exhibition was addressed to everyone interested in the history and development of Polish printmaking and design, visual communication, editorial graphics, as well as to artists and designers working in the graphic medium, illustrators, and art students.

Jadwiga Kaim-Otręba

After a brilliant debut, she chose a calmer rhythm of her artistic career. Professionally, she was associated with the Clothing Technical School in Krakow, where she taught drawing for twelve years (1968–1980). She took part in about one hundred group exhibitions of prints, drawings and posters in the country and abroad, including Austria, Belgium, West Berlin, Czechoslovakia, France, in Cuba, West Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, USA and Italy. She also presented her works at the International Printmaking Biennial in Krakow, the International XYLON Exhibition, Artists Against War and Violence - Artists in Defence of Peace in Berlin, in Warsaw, Paris, Schwetzingen, Bydgoszcz, Toruń, at the XYLON International Graphic Triennial in Winterthur and at the Kanagawa International Graphic Arts Exhibition.

In a review of the first joint exhibition of the Otrębas in 1963 at the Pegaz Gallery in Zakopane, Maciej Gutowski wrote: Jadwiga Kaim-Otręba seems to be primarily interested in humanity – the human figure. The human figure is presented expressively (...), the characters are rather helpless and lost than dramatic. Perhaps more important is their role as forms – varied, rich, with delicate, very painterly transitions. The painterly way of building forms is inextricably linked with colour, which is perhaps the strongest side of the artist's works. Her "colour thinking" is revealed in black and white works, perhaps even better than well-balanced colour prints. Those are special and rarely found relations between the planes of various greys that they almost become colour equivalents. A valuable and not so common a skill.

In the years 1960–1998, she won many awards and distinctions, both in exhibitions and in printmaking and poster competitions. Her works are in the collections of the National Museum in Krakow, the Museum of the Archdiocese of Warsaw, the Museum in Tarnów, in the municipal collections in Zakopane, in the collections of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Warsaw, in the collection of graphics at OK ZPAP in Krakow, the National Museum in Stockholm, the collections of the Pratt Graphics Center in New York, the collections of the University of Zielona Góra Library and private collections.

Ryszard Otręba

The success of Polish graphic arts in the second half of the 20th century would not have been possible without him. Artist and printmaker, an outstanding specialist in the field of visual communication, known mainly for his abstract, geometric compositions. Otręba linked his professional and artistic life with the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and, as a professor, for many years he was teaching at the Faculty of Industrial Design. He was the author of an internationally unique program of the Department of Visual Communication.

As an artist, he speaks with a characteristic, abstract language, consciously choosing ascetic simplicity, economy and classic elements of graphic material. He described his work as follows: In my prints, I try not to create moral anxiety, I do not force anyone to interpret anything. I am only looking for direct contact with the viewer in order to induce a selfless experience. I create tensions required to look at the picture and enrich the creative impulse. I believe in the creative nature of humanity – that this trait constantly triggers new impressions. I noticed that some of my compositions – even the simplest ones – evoke vivid, visually invested emotions in me and in my close friends.

His prints – with their rhythmic, symmetrical lines, almost geometric planes of black, white and grey – are an example of non-figurative art. However, it is an extremely personal art in which, as he himself emphasises, he found balance. He has also mastered the extremely rare and difficult plasterboard technique, which he has been innovatively perfecting (in foreign textbooks for graphic artists this technique is presented as the "Otręba method"). He is the author of numerous publications and texts on visual communication, sign and packaging design, as well as on the issues of visual processes and their relationships with visual semiology. His prints are part of museum collections in Poland and around the world, including the branches of the National Museum in Krakow, Warsaw, Poznań, Szczecin, Gdańsk, the Museum of Art in Łódź, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Library of Congress in Washington, Tate Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and many others.

Concept for the exhibition: Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, Łukasz Galusek

Curator: Dr. Monika Rydiger

Exhibition design: Anna Wisz

Coordination and organisation: Karolina Wójcik

Editing and proofreading: Nicholas Hodge, Aleksandra Marczuk

Cooperation: Joanna Biegacz, Ewa Czarnecka, Monika Czepielewska-Wóycicka, Dorota Korohoda, Dorota Kosiec, Łukasz Kozak, Angelika Madura, Dr. Paulina Małochleb, Anna Śliwa

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