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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article looks into the extraordinary Cold War–era career of the Polish artist Aleksander Kobzdej in order to provide insight into the complexity of the emergence and demise of socialist realism in the People’s Republic of Poland and its repercussions for today’s discourses. The author reconstructs Kobzdej’s smooth shift from a much-awarded socialist realist artist into an internationally recognized modernist abstract painter through the analysis of his artworks, travels, and participation in major art exhibitions, and discusses them in the context of the larger changes that took place in the official state policies and cultural diplomacy as Stalinism was giving way to the cultural Thaw in the mid-1950s. This case study serves to argue that not just socialist realism but also much of the later modernist art produced in Poland should be seen as de facto communist, that is, as art that emerged as a product of the delicate but stable, and mutually beneficial, consensus between artists and the communist state.

Keywords: Aleksander Kobzdej, socialist realism, Stalinism, modernism, cultural Thaw, People’s Republic of Poland, Cold War, cultural diplomacy, art exhibitions, abstract painting

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