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by J.D. Callaghan

(Laguna Art Museum, Orange County) The work of Stanislav Szukalski is dramatic and eccentric in the extreme. Marked by excellent technical skill as a draftsman and a strange vision which is at once mythological, humanistic, propagandistic, and futuristic.

To interpret the work, one must know something of the artist’s tumultuous personal history. He died in 1987 in relative obscurity in Los Angeles. Born in Poland, he was acclaimed as among that country’s elite artists during the decades between the two World Wars. Most of that early work was destroyed by the Nazi invasion, and Szukalski fled to the U.S., ultimately settling in Los Angeles.

His exceedingly volatile, obsessive, and confrontational personality effectively barred entry into the art world here, and he responded by immersion in a highly personal vision and a steadfast refusal to acknowledge the work of his contemporaries.

While work done before World War II was symbolic, detailed and quasi-avant garde, after the war highly egomaniacal obsessions shaped it. The work here details the mix of political, anthropological, and futuristic ideas as they are embodied through a universe of tortured and heroic figures drawn from popular to primitive culture.

Szukalski was largely a self-taught artist. His solopsitic vision allowed for him to regard himself as locked in monumental conflict with a world that was not just wrong but brutally so. Thus he sought to visually recast the world the way he thought it should be. The result as seen here is a combination of obscure delusion and a gifted paranoid’s unique invention.

“A Centaur," conte crayon, 28 x 22", 1950.

“Atlantea," bronze, c. 20" tall, 1919.

"Mrs. Johnson," conte crayon, 28 x 22", 1950.

"Drawing for the project Rooster of Gaul,"
conte crayon, 16 x 20", 1965.