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Home arrow Autobiography arrow 1990-2007
1990-2007 Print

1 Peter and Mother in Tworki, 1987. Photo: T. Borowski | 2 With Martin Weinstein, New York 1990 | 3 With Lukasz Korolkiewicz, New York 1987 | 4 With Mieczyslaw Porebski, Cracow 1994 | Opening At the KUL Gallery, Lublin 1988, Left : Leszek Madzik, right : Elzbieta Grabska. Photo: KUL

1990 Skin/Sky - Red/Blue: Drawritings opened at Art in General. The installation consisted of scrolls with drawings and texts, and a cotton “path” with the imprints of my soles, the left in red, the right in blue. Each carried the words of a dialogue between emotion (red) and reason (blue).

1991 Veronica and Her Cloth was published simultanously in Great Britain and the USA. The BBC based a documentary film on the book. My atheist point of view was attacked in the “New York Times” by a theologian from the Chicago Divinity School. But the Asian Cultural Council in New York appreciated my comparative approach and awarded me a three-month fellowship to continue my research in Japan.

1992 In January I moved to La Jolla, taking a visiting professorship at the University of California in San Diego. I shot a series of pictures showing my cut-out silhouette, and made the cover and illustrations for my novel Century 21, published in May. Veronica was a success in Brazil. For the end of the term I prepared the Sunset for the Three Survivors and told Alan Kaprow, my boss and the inventor of happenings whom as a student I had met in Warsaw, that I wanted my old self-portraits to “sit” on chairs and “see” the sun set in the Pacific. He predicted fog, and was right.

In June the phone rang. Mother had been taken to hospital. I flew to Warsaw. The nurses were on strike. The surgeon prepared me for “the worst”. Yet two months later I took my mother to a sanatorium, and then home. The conditions in my brother’s hospital were alarming. Dr. Maria Paluba, the new director of Tworki, asked me to help. The idea of an international association of friends came to my mind. Such was the beginning of Amici di Tworki.

1993 I asked people to donate work to the exhibition-auction Artists of the World for the Patients of Tworki. In September it opened at the Zacheta Gallery and was a success.

I felt a compulsion to cut cotton and silk. The cut-outs, which accompanied me on my walks, bike excursions and journeys, were photographed. The pictures can be seen in collections of poems by Maciej Niemiec, Gregory Shaffer, Piotr Sommer.

1994 In May Grand Hotel Oriental, my second novel set in Paris, was finished in New York. In June I flew to Warsaw to learn that there was no funding for my long-planned exhibition at the Polish Artists Union Gallery. A summer show was arranged at the palace in Nieborow and a couple of friends began to hunt for sponsors. In September the exhibit Ewa Kuryluk. Drawings and Installations 1977-1994 opened in Warsaw. Helen and John Shlien came from Boston.

In Paris Kazimierz Romanowicz closed his bookstore and gallery on the Ile Saint Louis. I rented his former storage place: a small room in the courtyard, humid and dark, which reminded me of a barge on the Seine.

1995 - 1996 In the summer term I taught at New York University, the winter term I spent on the Ile Saint Louis. After breakfast I folded my table and locked it into the closet, then I pinned cotton on the liberated wall. My first large-scale Paris installation Who’s this Mysterious Boy? was inspired by the story of a kidnapped child. In November 1995 Century 21, translated into Polish by Michal Klobukowski, received a Cultural Foundation award. In 1996 Grand Hotel Oriental, translated by me, was published in installments in “Gazeta Wyborcza”.

1. In my studio on the Ile Saint Louis, Paris 1995 | 2 With Marilyn McLaren in her studio, New York 2001 | 3 With Kinga Kawalerowicz, Artemis Gallery, Krakow 1997. Photo: L. Korolkiewicz | 4 Fukuoka 1998, the poster of my show | 5 A Japanese woman with my outdoor piece | 6 The Secret Life Of Clothes, exhibition catalogue, Fukuoka, 1998, p. 36

1997 In May two of my exhibitions were presented in Cracow: drawings on paper at the Galeria Artemis, cloth installations at the Center of Japanese Art and Technology. Art Mon Amour, my monthly column on art, began to appear in the color magazine of “Gazeta Wyborcza”. At the end of the year I moved from Ile Saint Louis to Montparnasse, to an atelier d’artiste that had belonged to the American painter Joan Mitchell. I renovated it and brought to Paris my early work that since my departure for the States had been stored in Vienna and London.

1998 In January The Secret Life of Clothes, a series of exhibitions curated by Nick Wadley at the Artium Gallery in Fukuoka, began with an installation by the American artist Tony Oursler. In March I flew to Japan with my own work about which I had written in the catalogue:


cloth is for me a total
work of art

Opening at the Artium Gallery in Fukuoka, 1998. In the middle Nick Wadley. Photo: Artium

In June 1998 Florence Stankiewicz died. In Century 21 she is immortalized as the editor of Joseph Conrad, Petrarca and “other Poles”. In Trio for the Hidden, a mininovel I wrote shortly after her death, she is the last companion of Lotte Goethe and Italo Svevo.

1999 In August my brother came home for his weekly visit. He had a high fever, his shirt was glued to a running sore. The accident was a blessing in disguise. Ever since Peter has been living at home.

2000 In May the Galeria Artemis in Cracow simultaneously presented the installation Trio for the Hidden and my photographic self-portraits. In October Poland was the guest country at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, and I r ead my texts in Cologne, Berlin and in the Rheinland. Ewa Kuryluk on Paper and Cloth was shown by the Galerie Sagan in Essen.

On December 23, the eve of her 83rd birthday, mother felt sick with indigestion. On the 24th she was taken to the same hospital as eight years ago. In the evening I arrived in Warsaw. The surgeon, angry that she had waited for me, gave us ten minutes “to make a decision”. He insisted that only surgery could save her. But what was her chance of suriving it? “Minimal”. Repelled by the idea of pointless suffering, I tried to convince mother that we should not agree. „No, no - she whispered - if there is a chance, we must try. I want to live for you and Peter”.

After the operation she opened her eyes and recognized me. Her mouth had been injured by the breathing tube pushed into her lungs. I watched the computer screen displaying the beating of her heart. When pain appeared on her face, I asked for more morphine. Three days later the stiches came apart. After the second operation her eyes, wide open, did not see me any more. On New Year’s Eve friends invited me to their home. Before midnight I was back in the hospital. The nurses were emptying a bottle of Champagne, the young doctor had painted designs on his face. The needles were slipping from mother’s veins, blood was dripping onto the dirty floor. Around 2 AM I was asked to leave the intensive care unit. Shortly afterwards she died.

1 January 2001 The day of our mother’s death. She was buried in father’s grave. By then I knew that she had been the girl picked up by him from a park bench. Her maiden name was Miriam Kohany, and she was married to Teddy Gleich. After her death I found his letters and photos in mother’s old winter shoes. After my return to Paris I wrote about my parents to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and decided to do an installation for them.

In April I flew to Canada. Spring had not yet arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, but the weather was hot and dry. I strolled down to the banks of the Saskatchewan River, watching icebergs float downstream. In the park an old man gave me a xeroxed piece of paper with his phone number and the picture of his lost dog. In the afternoon a chocolate-colored mongrel emerged from the bushes. He had found me, and I returned him to his owner. Cotton Skins opened at Latitude 53, one of the country’s northernmost galleries.

Back in Paris I came across Korczak’s Memoir, written in the ghetto. He recalled the death of his canary, and how he, a small boy, wanted to put a cross on his pet’s grave. But “the servant woman said that he couldn’t do that because a bird is something lower than a man... What was worse, the superintedant’s son declared that the canary was a Jew. Like me. I too was a Jew.” The story brought back memories. When I was a child mother often pointed at the sky, saying “Look, yellow birds”. She liked to wear a silk scarf imprinted with Van Gogh’s Boats framed in yellow, and suspended my Sill Life with Yellow Quince above her bed. In winter she hung lard on the balcony for “our titmice in canary-colored waistcoats”. She never lost hope that I would return to painting and to “our” color which I had abandoned a long time ago.

1 Miriam Kohany with her sister Hilde, ca. 1931. Photo: Family Archive | 2 Miriam Kohany, ca. 1938. Photo: Family Archive | 3 My maternal grandmother. Photo: E. Bieber | 4-5 Karol Kuryluk and Miriam Kohany during the German occupation of Lwów, 1941-2? | 6 Mother with me and Peter, Warsaw 1954. Photo: Family Archive

2002 I called my installation Yellow Birds Fly and made a yellow cover for my book Art Mon Amour. At the end of April I flew to Hong Kong. My birthday coincided with that of Tin Hau: the goddess of Chinese fishermen who honor her with fa pau: portable silk-and-paper altars. Suddenly, I visualized my parents’ yellow room as light and luminous as fa pau. In mid-May, a few days after my return to Paris, the phone rang and a voice said: Here Mr. Sharon from Isreal speaking. - What can I do for you? - I asked amazed. We talked for over an hour about “the puzzle” Mr. Menachem Sharon, Israeli cultural attaché in Warsaw in the 1960s, had solved. He found more people whom father had helped. Now I know about the brothers Jozef and Marian Frauenglas, hidden under his bed, their mother Peppa and yet another couple. On the basis of Mr. Sharon’s story father was declared “a righteous among the nations of the world” by Yad Vashem.

2003 My retrospective, Air People, was shown at the Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw. The title is derived from the German Luftmenschen, referring to people not rooted in social life, to outsiders, loners, nomads, exiles and Jews. In many ways, we are all air people, as in Shakespeare’s verses from the Tempest which served as the motto:

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air.
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

Shakespeare, The Tempest, IV, I

2004-2006 After my mother’s death, my work increasingly focused on her and my brother. My parents and Peter with his pet hamster Goldi are the protagonists of the novel Goldi, published two weeks after my brother’s sudden death in October 2004. Taboo followed with my brother and myself as children at the core of the installation. It was shown during the Cracow Jewish Culture Festival in 2005 and during the Warsaw Jewish Festival in 2006. My brother‘s death inspired The Golden Ship.

2007 Passengers from The Golden Ship were installed on the Kamo River bank in Kyoto and in the Fushiminari Shrine.

2009 Fifty years will have passed since I first painted and photographed myself. Two exhibitions will commemorate the event: The Golden Ship & Recent Installations & Photographs will be shown at The National Museum in Warsaw; Toy Ship & Early Photography at the Artemis Gallery in Cracow. An autobiography in photographs will be published for the occasion.

All the unattributed photographs are by Ewa Kuryluk.

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