Exhibition: Wojciech Bąkowski - Heart on the Trail

Wojciech Bąkowski Heart on the Trail May 24 - June 29, 2024

Bureau is pleased to present Heart on the Trail, a solo exhibition of new work by Polish artist Wojciech Bąkowski. Heart on the Trail is Bąkowski’s second solo exhibition with Bureau, and his first solo show in New York since 2016. Bąkowski is prolific in many media: known in Poland as a musician and poet, he also makes audio work, sculpture, hand-drawn animation, and drawings. Heart on the Trail will feature a number of new drawings and a sound-object. 

Bąkowski’s drawings in pastel and charcoal on cardboard depict dream-like visions through a hazy half-light. In these scenes, interiors and exteriors become interchangeable: the portal in Parents Room is at once a door and a window, with a sea horizon at the bottom; in Landscape with a Red Lamp, light pours through a doorway to reveal a forest within. The built environment structures Bąkowski’s unconscious—memories of his childhood housing block in Poznan suffuse his interior life with densely symbolic imagery. The artist cultivates the practice of lucid dreaming, a technique that allows him to invoke images from his past deliberately. In this liminal state between the conscious and unconscious mind, familiar sights like train cars, apartment buildings, city streets with bicycles or children at play, layer over each other, overlapping in time and space, shifting scales, mapping the tangled logic of the mind’s eye. 

To prepare his surfaces for drawing, Bąkowski sands heavy cardboard to give it a rough texture, then draws with charcoal or pastel to create smoky atmospheres from which his figures and places emerge. His use of color—a new development in his drawings—softens the emotional tone of his starker scenes, enhancing their sensory power. Pale yellows and dusky purples describe pools of light and shadow, evoking times of day or feelings of safety or danger. A ring of blue flames has the scale of a huge bonfire but the shape of a tiny burner on a gas stove. In a diptych and triptych included here, scenes are depicted from different points of view, with the simultaneity and shifting perspective common to dreams and memory alike. 

The exhibition shares its title with the sound-object Heart on the Trail. A speaker embedded in this wall-relief plays a recording of a mechanical clock from Bąkowski’s grandparents’ home. This type of Soviet-manufactured clock was common in post-War Poland, and its metallic ticking registers on multiple levels—as the hallucinatory soundtrack to the artist’s childhood dreams; as a poetic signifier for the Cold War era in Eastern Europe; and as a universal reminder of time’s relentless passage. 

Wojciech Bąkowski (b. 1979, Poznan, Poland; lives and works in Warsaw) earned an MFA (2005) and a PhD (2018) from the University of Fine Arts in Poznań. Recent solo exhibitions include Route Phantom, Neuer Essener Kunstverein, Essen (2023); A Couple of Details, Stereo, Warsaw (2023); Holiday Power Supply, SVIT, Prague (2016); Hideout in the Corner of Level 6, Bureau, New York (2016). Bakowski’s work has been included in numerous biennials and museum exhibitions including: Procedures for the head: Polish Art Today, Kunsthalle Bratislava, Slovakia (2015); Propotypes, XII Baltic Triennial, Vilnius, Lithuania (2015); State of Life, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China (2015); As You Can See: Polish Art Today, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland (2014); The Generational: Younger than Jesus, New Museum, New York (2009). His animation films have also been included in film festivals in New York, Toronto, Vienna, Ann Arbor, Wroclaw, and have been presented at Anthology Film Archives, New York. In 2015 he was awarded the Grand Prize at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany. His work is held in the public collections of Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz; and CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw.