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Stanislav Szukalski: Visionary Artist
Various images collected from the web

by J.D. Callaghan
(Laguna Art Museum, Orange County)

"The work of Stanislav Szukalski is dramatic and eccentric in the extreme. Marked by excellent technical skill as a draftsman and a strange vision which is at once mythological, humanistic, propagandistic, and futuristic.

To interpret the work, one must know something of the artist’s tumultuous personal history. He died in 1987 in relative obscurity in Los Angeles.

Born in Poland, he was acclaimed as among that country’s elite artists during the decades between the two World Wars. Most of that early work was destroyed by the Nazi invasion, and Szukalski fled to the U.S., ultimately settling in Los Angeles.

His exceedingly volatile, obsessive, and confrontational personality effectively barred entry into the art world here, and he responded by immersion in a highly personal vision and a steadfast refusal to acknowledge the work of his contemporaries, While work done before World War II was symbolic, detailed and quasi-avant garde, after the war highly egomaniacal obsessions shaped it. The work here details the mix of political, anthropological, and futuristic ideas as they are embodied through a universe of tortured and heroic figures drawn from popular to primitive culture. Szukalski was largely a self-taught artist.
His solipsistic vision allowed for him to regard himself as locked in monumental conflict with a world that was not just wrong but brutally so. Thus he sought to visually recast the world the way he thought it should be. The result as seen here is a combination of obscure delusion and a gifted paranoid’s unique invention."


PAINTINGS and DRAWINGS


SCULPTURE





Stanislav Szukalski was born in Gidle, Poland, about 1893
.(from Dileantte Press)
When he was only six years old, a teacher sent him to the headmaster's office for whittling a pencil. The headmaster examined the pencil more closely and discovered that young Stanislav had carved a tiny, near-perfect figure. Instead of punishing him he called the local newspaper which did a feature on the art prodigy.

As a teenager Szukalski studied art at the Fine Arts Academy in Krakow and won two gold medals. He moved to Chicago in 1913 and learned English from reading National Geographic magazines. He was soon welcomed as one of the Chicago Renaissance luminaries along with Ben Hecht, Carl Sandburg, and Clarence Darrow. Szukalski achieved recognition as an art genius, and a major monograph on his work was published by the time he was thirty. He returned to Poland in 1927 to work on his sculpture but was stopped by the Siege of Warsaw in 1939.

Though he lost all his early work in the German invasion, he somehow managed to escape back to the United States and moved to California to live with his American wife. By then forgotten, he lived in obscurity, spending the rest of his life obsessively making art meant to prove a theory that all human culture derived from a single origin on Easter Island after the biblical Deluge of Noah.

He illustrated thirty volumes of text devoted to a pseudoscience he invented and called "Zermatism," which purported to show that all languages derive from a single ancient language and that all art could be distilled down to a single series of universal symbols. According to his theory, differences in races and cultures were due primarily to inter-species breeding between near-perfect ancestral beings and the "Yetinsyn" (humanoid creatures reputed to live in remote Himalayan valleys which some people call "Abominable Snowmen")

Szukalski died in 1987. A year later his ashes, along with those of his wife,
were scattered at Rano Raraku, the sculptor's quarry on Easter Island.

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