Preview: Wexner Center Spring 2012 Exhibitions

Jackie Mantey, Columbus Alive

The Wexner Center's two new spring exhibitions serve up history lessons regarding a pair of artists: Alina Szapocznikow, a Holocaust survivor whose radical sculpture has set her star rising almost 40 years after her death, and Omer Fast, a modern-day videographer who creates provocative work that - especially in light of the Wexner's juxtaposition - explores the tumultuous past decade of American life. Bring your pencils; you'll want to take notes.

"Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955-1972"

Renowned in Poland, her home country, Alina Szapocznikow has an "artistic and personal history that is virtually unknown" elsewhere, said Wexner curator Christopher Bedford. But this exhibit, organized in part by MoMA in New York, could change that.

"The exhibition is remarkable because you can really see the logic at work in an artist's aesthetic progress," Bedford said.

"Sculpture Undone" displays her early classical figurative sculptures and her later work that evokes surrealism and pop art. Examples: polyester resin casts of her breasts and lips turned into strange versions of everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays.

A personal history of traumatic experiences (she spent her childhood in Nazi ghettos and concentration camps), Szapocznikow's constructions "progressively try to de-form the body in such a way that the body becomes legible as more than just a physical thing in the world," Bedford said.

The body, Szapocznikow seems to say, bears memory as fluidly as the mind and should be recognized as such despite its normality, a point exacerbated by the other commonplace materials she used in some pieces like newspaper, found photographs and gauze.

Fans of Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse will especially enjoy this exhibit, but they will quickly learn that Szapocnikow is deserving of her own prominent place in the art history chronicles.

"The resounding freshness, strangeness, experimental quality of her work," Bedford said, "makes it very different from anything you are likely to see from anyone else."

"Omer Fast: 2001/11"

Two videos by this Jerusalem-born, Berlin-residing artist make up "Omer Fast: 2001/11." The title alludes to the years the two videos were made - 2001 and 2011 - and the subject matter of life before, during and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"CNN Concatenated" conjoins splices of national newscasts' Sept. 11 coverage into one long stream of statements that highlight our vulnerability.

"5000 Feet Is the Best," a 2011 Venice Biennale darling, is a collage of recollections from Fast's interview with a pilot of a drone attack and video flashbacks of war.

Shown side-by-side, the videos allow for rumination on the subject of battle and artist alike.

"Those videos together constitute a really earnest engagement with a difficult decade," Bedford said. "They might together be a platform to think through, I suppose, our politics as they've evolved over that decade and where we might be headed, particularly on the eve of a national election."

Politics aside, the display allow viewers "to see an incredible evolution and sensibility of the artist," Bedford said. "He is one of a handful of the most significant and inventive artists working with moving image today."

Wexner Center for the Arts

May 19-Aug. 5

1871 N. High St., Campus

See Omer Fast talk:

Wexner Center for the Arts

5 p.m. Friday, May 18

1871 N. High St., Campus