March 2 – April 9, 2016
Opening Reception: March 3, 6pm – 9pm
The Tailer, 2014 © Richard Tuschman
Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz is a visual novella, which portrays a fictional Jewish family in 1930s Poland.
Set in the once vibrant neighborhood of Kazimierz in Krakow, the location is a metaphor for loss and decay. In 1935, the Jewish historian Meir Balaban, described the neighborhood’s declining Jewish population as being “only the poor and the ultra-conservative”. Indeed, the darkness evident in the photographs, is underpinned by an awareness that the fates of the characters, are likely doomed by history, with the impending holocaust. While death, the fraying of family bonds, and feelings of grief haunt many of the photographs, this gloom is punctuated by moments of love, longing and tenderness.
While Tuschman continues to pay tribute to those artists who have inspired him—Balthus, Brandt, de Chirico, Vermeer—the series also demonstrates a significant development in Tuschman’s oeuvre. The artist’s Eastern European Jewish ancestors resided in the vicinity of Kazimierz until circa 1900, and this forms part of the basis for weaving together a fictional narrative with strands of cultural and family history.
Well known for his Hopper Meditations series, the artist’s process continues to be labor intensive and meticulous. The staged photographs result from a sophisticated marriage of miniature dioramas with life-size models. The sets are photographed after being hand-built by the artist over several months, with models photographed separately and composited into the scenes. The resulting photographs are visually stunning constructions, richly imbued with nuances of Jewish customs and a sense of place.
References to cinema and theatre resonate across the work. While the artworks are constructed in an exacting manner, they are also deliberately made to fall away from reality—enhancing their theatricality—and to project a level of the surreal and a dreamlike quality. Each image can also be seen to perform as a film still, with each part adding to a larger narrative arc. Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz, as a chronologically sequenced story, leaves just enough gaps and open-endedness, to enable the viewer to impose a tale of their own, highlighting in many respects, the fluidity of dreams and of memory.