The Dark Arts - Aleksandra Waliszewska and Symbolism

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw


The Dark Arts: Aleksandra Waliszewska and Symbolism, edited by Alison M. Gingeras and Natalia Sielewicz / ISBN 9788396302625 / 220-page paperback with jacket, 7 x 11.5 inches, published in 2023 by Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw


A look at the dark, symbolic work of Polish painter Aleksandra Waliszewska alongside historical artworks that influence her.

Painter Aleksandra Waliszewska creates densely narrative, art historically saturated oil and gouache paintings. Waliszewska’s pictorial universe is populated by supernatural characters and dark themes: devils, vampires, satanic creatures, possessed girls, apocalyptic scenes, bloodthirsty zombies, and other incarnations of the living dead. These characters are situated in dystopian urban landscapes, lost highways, deserted suburbs, gloomy housing estates, swamps, and other sites associated with the Eastern European landscape. Drawing from the specifically Slavic histories of the Upiór (the living dead), Waliszewska claims her artistic and conceptual descendance from premodern art and Symbolist works of the late 19th and early 20th century from Nordic, Baltic, and Eastern European regions.

The Dark Arts presents a dense visual narrative, reproducing over a hundred images of Waliszewska’s in juxtaposition with dozens of historical paintings and sculptures. Shifting away from the dominant figures of French and Austrian artists, this revisionist look at Symbolism through an Eastern and Baltic lens will introduce a wider audience to a rich and relatively understudied field of visual culture.

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