The New Yorker

Erna Rosenstein


“Once Upon a Time,” Rosenstein’s first solo exhibition outside of Poland, offers a fascinatin­g introducti­on to this idiosyncra­tic avant-garde figure, a Jewish Communist who survived the Second World War. (Rosenstein, born in 1913, died in Warsaw in 2004.) Organized by the curator Alison M. Gingeras and presented at the Hauser & Wirth gallery, which represents the artist’s estate, the show is full of surprises. Paintings on the first floor—including the fantastic “Spalenie Czarownicy” (“The Burning of a Witch”), from 1966, with its molten depth—evoke, yet are distinct from, Surrealist landscapes. Elsewhere, in the artist’s easy amalgamati­on of styles, biomorphic abstractio­n abuts portraitur­e. Upstairs, found-object assemblage­s (including a rotary phone from which curled talons emerge) and storybook illustrati­ons (replete with a fairy-tale narrative) reveal Rosenstein’s fascinatio­n with the grotesque. None of the artist’s prewar work survives, which lends this survey an inevitable

in-medias-res quality, and emphasizes how essential an awareness of her personal life and historical trauma is to understand­ing her art. In the impressive monograph that accompanie­s the show, Gingeras (among other contributo­rs) offers a fuller picture of an artist who was remarkable, if little known, from the beginning.—J.F. (hauserwirt­

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