By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
After two years serving as the Logan Centers inaugural visual arts program curator, Monika Szewczyk is leaving the University of Chicago for Athens, Greece.
Szewczyk will join a panel of curators for a 2017 European exhibition of contemporary art, Documenta 14. During her time at the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St., she curated and co-curated around 10 shows, ending with Szalon, an exhibit of works playing off the meanings of the word in Polish (crazy) and in Hungarian (salon), as well as Hebrews similar-sounding Shalom (peace).
As in Szalon, Szewczyks shows often featured seemingly disparate works defying a strict, overarching theme.
There was never a prescription from the people who hired me of what I was supposed to do, Szewczyk said. And that was part of the really attractive aspect of the job.
Szewczyk said she sought to convey in her work the feel of a curatorial studio, likening her style to that of a studio, which she said is in flux and open to a wider range of interpretation. The Logan Center did this, according to her, by hosting opening receptions weeks after a show was unveiled or by curating a dynamic exhibit such as last winters The Fifth Dimension, in which new artworks would appear over time.
I think that if things make sense too quickly, then we dont actually process them, or use them to understand the complexity of the world, Szewczyk said. I think art is there to provide a stumbling block to the automatic way of thinking.
But for Szewczyk, it was not only the Logan Center shows that defined her time here: The globetrotters two years as a Woodlawn resident was her first experience living in the United States.
A Poland native, Szewczyk saw firsthand the emergence of the Solidarity movement, and then moved at age 10 to Vancouver, where she watched Communism collapse from afar as a high school student. She stayed there to attend college and graduate school, and was a curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery before moving to Europe, where she edited publications for the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art while in Brussels, Berlin and Rotterdam.
I was a great fan of Obama, and I was aware of the mythos of this place, Szewczyk said of her move to the South Side of Chicago.
She added that it was a profound decision, because it really helped to shape how I understand Chicago and how I understand the United States.