The exhibition held at the Warsaw 'Zacheta' Gallery in 1992 proved to be a triumphant return of the émigré artist Jan Lebenstein. Members of the public were offered an opportunity to make the acquaintance of Lebenstein as an exceptionally insightful observer of contemporaneity exposing evil, a traveller to the very sources of art, an original author and heir of European tradition. In 1999 Lebenstein arranged an exhibition composed of his private collections, shown in Lublin, Cracow, Gdansk and Torun. The exposition was envisaged as a self-presentation of the successive stages in the artist's oeuvre and spirituals metamorphoses. In 2005 Lukasz Kossowski proposed a new perception of Lebenstein by holding an exhibition entitled 'Jan Lebenstein. Demons', featured at the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature in Warsaw, Lublin Castle and national museums in Poznan and Szczecin. Attention was focused on the demonic aspect of each work, and the construction of the show was based on the premise that the reality of the totalitarian system actually created the author's biography, while his personal experiences with the mysterious side of human nature were granted an artistic dimension. Up to now, Lebenstein's works had not been considered from this angle, although the very essence of his oeuvre is concealed precisely in the dark side of the human world, somewhere beyond symbols, anecdotes or sheer skills. Against the backdrop of the decisions made by Lebenstein In the course of his life, his political views and artistic choices, his oeuvre remains personal, distinct and independent. In the mid-1950s, immediately after graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Lebenstein noticed that the only infallible and vitalising source of inspiration are his own experiences and the fact that art must testify to to truth. He never eschewed the connection between painting and reality, and regarded the affiliation to the abstract current or surrealism ascribed to him as erroneous. Lebenstein's career began with exhibitions shown in New York and across Europe. He deliberately chose freedom and creative independence by settling down in Paris. In the subterranean showrooms of the Louvre and the Natural History Museum he stirred his imagination with the world of Sumeria, Babylon or Pergamon. There he once again discovered his own path towards contemporaneity. This was also the source of his bestiaries and inner mythologies, followed by illustrations of the Bible and the literary works of his friends. The canvases by Lebenstein are hostages of the dark side of our existence. What is the essence of that something which constitutes a composition? Is it a demon or an angel, or rather a shapeless element? Imaginary or real light? Only one thing is certain - the canvas which is true art contains that component and emanates it.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.