Logan Center’s inaugural curator leaves for Europe

Logan Center curator Monika Szewczyk. -Spencer Bibbs
Logan Center curator Monika Szewczyk.

-Spencer Bibbs

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

After two years serving as the Logan Center’s 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 Hebrew’s similar-sounding “Shalom” (“peace”).

As in “Szalon,” Szewczyk’s 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 winter’s “The Fifth Dimension,” in which new artworks would appear over time.

“I think that if things make sense too quickly, then we don’t 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 globetrotter’s 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.”

j.bishku@hpherald.com

Twitter: @jeffhba