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Distributed for Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Art in a Disrupted World

Poland 1939–1949

With Art in a Disrupted World, art historian Agata Pietrasik presents a study of artistic practices that emerged in Poland during and after World War II. Pietrasik highlights examples of artworks by a number of Polish-born artists that were created in concentration camps and ghettos, in exile, and during the years of social, political, and cultural disintegration immediately following the war. She draws attention to the ethics of artistic practice as a method of fighting to preserve one’s own humanity amid even the most dehumanizing circumstances. Breaking out of entrenched historical timelines and traditional forms of narration, this book brings together drawings, paintings, architectural designs, and exhibitions, as well as literary and theatrical works created in this time period, to tell the story of Polish life in wartime.

​Employing an accessible, essayistic style, Pietrasik offers a new look at life in the ten years following the outbreak of World War II and features artists—including Marian Bogusz, Jadwiga Simon-Pietkiewicz, and Józef Szajna—whose work has not yet found substantial audiences in the English-speaking world. Her reading of the art and artists of this period strives to capture their autonomous artistic language and poses critical questions about the ability of traditional art history writing to properly accommodate artworks created in direct response to traumatic experiences.

300 pages | 60 color plates | 6 1/4 x 9 1/2

New Histories of Art

Art: Art--General Studies

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"Makes a far-reaching contribution to the twentieth-century European art history."

Critique d'Art

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Instances of Material Resistance: Portraiture in Concentration Camps
Material Resistance
Drawing Faces
Face and Facelessness in the Portraits of Xawery Dunikowski
The Imaginary Portraits of Zofia Stepin-Bator
Gestures of Resistance: Jadwiga Simon-Pietkiewicz’s Sketchbook
The (Self-) Portraits of Józef Szajna

Chapter 2: Homelessness, Homecoming, and “The Joy of New Constructions”
The Destruction of Houses and The Politics of Homelessness
Imagining Homes for the Homeless
Art as a Home for All
Programmatic Lack of Program
Modernism Against Itself
(Un)doing Modernism
From Friction to Fraction
The Social Fabric and the Surface of the Canvas

Chapter 3: The Dialectics of Ruins and Rubble in Postwar Representations of Warsaw
An Overview of Warsaw’s Ruination
What is a Ruin?
What is Rubble?
“Warsaw Accuses”: Ruins On Display
Drawing Ruins: Affective Chronicles of Time and Place
In a Heap of Rubble

List of Works and Photo Credits

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