Anton Kern Gallery presents its inaugural exhibition at 16 East 55th Street with new paintings by the Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal. This prescient grouping of works features portraits of prominent politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Marine Le Pen, and former UN leaders: Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, and Kurt Waldheim. Alongside these political portraits are scenes of a serene and contemplative character: a winter sky in Poland, a pile of discarded rubber tires, or rock formations near Southern Israel’s Mitzpe Ramon.
The double histories of such political figures are explored through the depiction of Angela Merkel in her youth as an East German, Hillary Clinton’s past position as First Lady, and the passing of the torch from Jean-Marie Le Pen to his daughter Marine as the president of the French National Front. Sasnal’s attempt to connect the past with the present is strikingly exemplified in the portrait of former UN Secretary-General and President of Austria, Kurt Waldheim, whose hidden complicity in Nazi war crimes was exposed late in his career.
The motivation to engage with present events is rooted in the desire to dissect the past. Sasnal approaches the potency of these figures and geographies through their inherent network of narrative and formal references, and his interest in how images that seem straightforward in one context are made elusive in another.