In his project “Daniel Rycharski: Fears”, opening at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Polish artist Daniel Rycharski combines concerns around religious faith, gay identity and the rural experience. Within the frozen landscape of the artist’s hometown Kurówko, one finds multiple crosses erected in rainbow colours (easily signifying LGBT life). The installation is an exercise in self-assertion, a call for freedom. And yet, the artist refuses to sever ties with his roots. Despite the difference and disagreement, he appears to cling loyally and lovingly.
Rycharski has come up with a singular proposal for artistic activity by sparking discussion on issues of identity and the limits of membership within a religious community. Through his works, he manages to convey seemingly contradictory experiences: as an artist and believer, a gay man working within a conservative society to create a new means of emancipation from outdated forms of religion. This cross-section of Rycharski’s works is part of the museum’s programming initiative to pursue a new lexicon for describing the world around us and draw attention to some of the most interesting and radical artistic attitudes of our time.
Over the course of his studies at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, Rycharski began to examine the visual culture and identity of contemporary rural areas. Since then, his works have illustrated a more complex image of the countryside as he began seeking out forms of expression for alternative social experiences and visions. The lessons from Kurówko remain a touchstone for Rycharski in his approach to art and communication with audiences. His personal experience and family situation serve as a point of departure for the artist to take up more universal themes relevant to the perspective of a society experiencing conflicts connected with the return (or endurance) of religion as an instrument of political mobilisation and polarisation. As an artist cooperating with diverse groups, such as agricultural and religious associations, a social club of rural housewives, and LGBT+ activists, he wrestles with numerous social fears and prejudices in his works.
Rycharski’s bold approach to faith and Christianity, which has no equivalent in Polish art, is currently the driving force of his artistic practice. The pieces brought together for the purposes of the exhibition tell the story of an artist who has shifted from a desire to organise a grass-roots revolution and achieve equal rights for LGBT+ individuals within the Church to the determination to practice his faith according to his own rules. Grounded in religion by way of various institutions and family members, he takes a given set of concepts and values and pursues a new version of a liberation project that would embrace outcasts. It is a project he calls ‘Christianity without religion’.
The exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw pursues a common nerve running through the actions undertaken by the artist in cooperation with residents of rural areas and the identity projects that have grown out of the fostering of those contacts. Rycharski’s endeavours propose an original language for queer art that is mindful of issues of class sensitivity, which the artist uses to try to reorganise our way of thinking about political divisions, to find another path to articulate conflicts. Expressing himself through a range of actions and situations, Rycharski does not abandon the world of objects, but endows them, rather, with a strong charge of emotion and existential experience by placing the materiality of the object and its history in the foreground.
“Daniel Rycharski: Fears” is a report detailing over a decade of work by an artist who does more than meet the demand for an alternative perspective, while drawing richly from codes of popular culture to develop a new interpretation of the art of cooperation bordering on activism, political action and activation.