August 10, 2012

Press Release
Contact: Christopher Kamyszew, Senior Curator
Tel. 773-486-9612
Fax 773-486-9613

AUGUST 10 – SEPTEMBER 10, 2012


Already for the fourth time in nearly twenty years, the Society for Arts presents works of Jan Lebenstein (1930-1999), one of the most interesting European painters of the second half of twentieth century. Over fifty works, mostly not shown before, come from a famous New York collection of Dr Albert Groekost / Ken Browne. Among them stand out the early works on graph paper from 1956 – 1958, made before the artist left Poland for Paris for good. One of his very early Figures presented here was shown on his first individual exhibition in Warsaw’s “Separate Theater” established by poet Miron Bialoszewski.  The overwhelming body of works comes from a period of 1962 – 1966, considered as the best time in Lebenstein’s artistic career. It includes Figures and Beasts executed in his own mixed technique which combines gouache, watercolor and ink. The 70’s are represented by a well-known series of illustrations to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (1974). The latest works on the show come from the 80’s and document another, “neoclassic” stage in prolific output of the magnificent artist. Showing of an extraordinary dialectics of its development that testifies to undeterred quest, sincerity and originality of a creative process remains important objective of this exhibition.

Respected French art critic Jean-Noel Vuarnet described the loner from Paris:
[…] possessed by his animalistic-human hell, anatomist learned in eroticism, lyrical veterinary, among skeletons vibrant with life, among loins and muzzles, with Egyptian or neoclassic architecture in a background […] champion of insane metaphors. Writer of any wilderness, temptations, hallucinations, chimerically obsessed, he torments a form, forcing it to admit its ridiculousness and lie as well as revealing ambiguity of abomination and charm, a masculinity and a femininity.

The artist was not interested in any international career at all cost despite a great number of various opportunities. His talent was discovered early – he received Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris at the First Youth Biennial in 1959. He conquered Brazilian viewers with his Beasts exhibited at the International Sao Paolo Biennial in 1965. Then, he began exhibiting regularly in New York. However, he intentionally gave up the successes and withdrew to his Parisian studio to focus on painting. Often, he suffered from privation, supported by his friends. One of them was Czeslaw Milosz, later a Nobel Prize laureate in literature. He wrote about Lebenstein after his premature death in his essay “Beloved, Unbridled Jas:” Jas Lebenstein’s atelier at rue des Ecouffles was our orientation point, frequently a meeting spot. He used to work there at night while sleeping during a day, so different from painters who want to see the world in a sunlight […] He despised opportunistic tricks of his French colleagues, knocking down the stairs the most influential art critic […] Jas was a good man, righteous, noble. And I am far from making any affront to his memory by reminding that he confirmed a bohemian lifestyle by all his way of living […] I think nowadays almost nobody understands how much energy it cost some artists of the twentieth century to be at loggerheads.  

A documentary film “Diary of a Loner” (2000) directed by Andrzej Wolski, one of the artist’s last recordings, is shown at the show.

The exhibition is open from August 10th to September 10th in the gallery hours or by appointment. Admission is free. Further information is available at the Society for Arts by calling 773-486-9612 or visiting its official website

The exhibition is possible in part thanks to a generous support from Star-Tech Glass, Inc.