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MIROSLAW BALKA: 68(200x8x8)Heaven

Information About the Event

On View

Buchwald-Wright Gallery, Free Admission

Guest Curator

Rui Mateus Amaral

Artist

Miroslaw Balka

Acknowledgements

The Gund programs and exhibitions are made possible, in part, by The Gund Board of Directors and the Ohio Arts Council.

Donors/supporters

Ohio Arts Council Logo
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Miroslaw Balka, 68x(200x8x8)Heaven, 2010. Installation view. Photo courtesy Scrap Metal Gallery, Toronto.

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Installation view of Miroslaw Balka, "68x(200x8x8)Heaven," 2010. On view at The Gund at Kenyon College Summer/Fall 2024. Image by Luke Stettner.

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Installation view of Miroslaw Balka, "68x(200x8x8)Heaven," 2010. On view at The Gund at Kenyon College Summer/Fall 2024. Image by Luke Stettner.

Miroslaw Balka’s work is marked by its simplicity and the space he leaves between things. The artist’s body and studio are often his starting points, informing the scale and materiality of his works, which span ash, felt, salt, hair, soap, wood, steel, and concrete. The human body’s relationship to the built environment is always present in Balka’s thinking, which reverberates as visitors experience his work.

Balka’s sculptures and installations are also shaped by historical events, both personal and collective. His Catholic upbringing and experience of coming of age in post-war Poland imbue his work with a profound psychological and emotional charge. How to recompose the world after a tragedy? Is it possible to see anything that remains—people, places, and things—the same way again? These questions, rooted in Balka’s experiences, are also opportunities for individual and new reflections.

Within Balka’s oeuvre, 68(200x8x8)Heaven is singular, distinguished by the artist’s choice of a reflective plastic and the work’s compositional variability each time it is presented. Here, Balka invites the viewer to delve into an uncanny realm of suspended self-recognition. There are 68 elements, each measuring 200 by 8 by 8 centimeters. They are fashioned in an open spiral and individually hung from the ceiling, creating a work that simultaneously reflects and distorts the viewer in an unearthly shifting light. Consequently, the “I” is reproduced infinitely, as in a hall of mirrors, but alternately shrunken and elongated as one traverses the space. The viewer, participating by virtue of interaction, is a crucial element to the activation of the artwork. As one winds through the installation, the airflow alters each element and creates the illusion of upward and downward movement, all the while preventing one from gaining a single or stable view of the self. In many of the titles of Balka’s works the combination or subtraction of figures offers new insight and meaning. This artwork was made in 2010 and is composed of 68 elements. 68 subtracted from 2010 equals 1942, a pivotal year in the Second World War and what has become known as the Holocaust. 68(200x8x8)Heaven, amongst other works by Miroslaw Balka, can be encountered as a space of remembrance.

Miroslaw Balka was born in 1958 in Warsaw, Poland. He lives and works in Otwock, Poland, and Oliva, Spain. His work has been exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at Castello di Ama, Siena (2019); Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2017); Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany (2017); British School at Rome (2016); Museum of Art MS1, Lodz, Poland (2015); Foksal Gallery, Warsaw (2014); Freud Museum, London (2014); amongst others. He has also participated in numerous group exhibitions including Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2022); Centro de Arte Contemporânea de Coimbra, Portugal (2022); Osaka Kansai International Art Festival, Japan (2022); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2022); Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Germany (2021); Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2021); State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (2021); Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (2021); and more.

The Gund at Kenyon College is grateful to the Shlesinger-Walbohm Family Collection for the loan of this work.