Fire Escape

Monika Sosnowska

Exhibition: Jul 15 – Sep 12, 2010

For her Artpace exhibition, Fire Escape, Monika Sosnowska took her cue from local architecture, inspired by the ubiquitous emergency stairwells that scale the sides of older buildings throughout San Antonio. The image of the zig-zagging fire escape has become intuitive within Western architectural iconography. In response, Sosnowska has fabricated her own stairwell, stripping it of its functionality, dismantling the main elements of the apparatus, and giving each component its own autonomous sculptural identity. Together the pieces would comprise a small, working fire escape; but taken apart the segments are misshapen and warped beyond use, presented as a series of vignettes in their own space.

The horizontal metal platform and balustrade featured at the top of the stairwell have been detached from the stairs, then wedged and suspended into a corner of the gallery. The stairs and ladder extension of the stairwell are divided into two parts. The set of stairs hangs obliquely on the wall, folded and compressed, while the ladder rests in a composed, collapsed heap on the concrete floor of the space. The metal bars and plates that comprise the stairwell remain intact, but the sculptures, constructed in a 1:1 ratio, are curved and deformed, their original form rendered organically dysfunctional. The monumentality of each piece of the stairwell adds to the physical weight in tonnage; they are built just as an emergency stairwell would be: thick metal beams, steel steps, and a broad metal balustrade.

The image of emergency stairwells climbing urban architecture in cities across the United States has become so commonplace that little aesthetic consideration is given to them. Sosnowska challenges the relationships of architecture, and the elements that comprise a whole, altering perception, reviving memories, and inviting the viewer to recall associations with the often mundane objects.

-Leslie Moody Castro, Graduate Intern


Monika Sosnowska

Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw-based Monika Sosnowska builds architectural forms in response to specific spaces, then manipulates them, collapsing, deflating, and squeezing the work into alternate settings. By changing or removing the contextual information, she creates a disorienting effect, heightening our awareness of form and space. In an attempt to highlight the everyday banality of the physical areas we inhabit, she questions the afterlife of architecture, and recalls the historical moments the buildings were meant to embody, as well as their idealistic futility.
Sosnowska attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Poland, from 1993 to1998, before participating in various residency programs, including a study at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, from 1999 to 2000, and a residency at S-AIR, in Sapporo, Japan, in 2002. Solo exhibitions include Projects 83, Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York (2006) and Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany (2006). Sosnowska also represented Poland at the Venice Biennale 2007 in Italy. Group exhibitions include Les Promesses du Passé, Pompidou-Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France (2010); Monika Sosnowska/Andrea Zittel, Schaulager, Munchenstein/Basel, Switzerland (2008); and Stay Forever and Ever and Ever, South London Gallery, England (2007).

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Patrick Charpenel

Mexico City, Mexico

Patrick Charpenel is an art historian and collector currently working as an independent curator in Mexico City. He holds a graduate degree in philosophy. Charpenel has curated numerous exhibitions including Franz West, Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico (2006); Sólo los personajes cambian, Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico (2004);, Moore Space, Miami, Florida (2003); Edén, Jumex Collection, Mexico City, Mexico (2003); and ACNÉ, Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, Mexico (1995). He has numerous critical texts published in catalogues and magazines.

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