Stażewski's career spanned seven decades and he is considered a pivotal figure in the history of Constructivism and geometric abstraction in Poland. He was one of the few prominent Polish avant-garde artists of the interwar period who had remained active and influential in the second half of the twentieth century.
Stażewski rose to prominence as a co-founder of Blok, Praesens, and a.r. group, three interwar artistic collectives which spearheaded the development of Polish Constructivist art. During the 1920s and 1930s, he traveled extensively and became acquainted with other European avant-garde artists, including Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, as well as Albert Gleizes. In 1939, Stażewski's career was hindered by the outbreak of World War II and most of his work was destroyed during Nazi occupation of Poland. After the end of the war in 1945, he returned to painting but was faced with the imposition of Stalinism and Socialist Realism.
Following the cultural and political Thaw of 1956, Stażewski began working on abstract relief compositions, a medium that would preoccupy the artist in the following decades and become his most recognized body of work. First exhibited in 1959, Stażewski's reliefs deployed diverse media and harnessed various non-objective vocabularies inspired by his interwar investigations into geometric abstraction. In 1966, Stażewski initiated a years-long collaboration with Galeria Foksal in Warsaw, a non-commercial gallery space which played a central role in the development of the Polish post-war avant-garde. Working alongside Tadeusz Kantor, Edward Krasinski, Annette Messager and other contemporary artists who exhibited at Foksal, Stażewski had subsequently positioned himself as a leading Polish abstractionist of the 1970s and 1980s.
Henryk Stażewski's works are included in permanent collections of museums in Europe and the United States. For his contributions to Eastern and Central European culture, the artist was awarded the Herder Prize in 1972.
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