Chewing Gum

Karen Kedmey
Dec 25, 2012 3:34AM

While taking a break from polishing her Rolls Royce (sculpture), Alina Szapocznikow went to sit outside in the sun while chewing a piece of gum.  As it turned out, during this respite from work on one sculpture, she began to work on another.  Tuning in suddenly to the pliant, infinitely variable substance in her mouth, she was struck by its sculptural qualities:

"In shaping with my mouth odd-looking and bizarre forms, I suddenly realized what an extraordinary collection of abstract sculptures was moving between my teeth."

Szapocznikow's vivid, funny, and visceral description--I could almost feel those gummy sculptures between my own teeth--is matched by the resulting work, a suite of 20 black-and-white photographs of her chewed gum "sculptures," titled Fotorzezby (Photosculptures) (1971).  Taken by her husband, Roman Cieslewicz, the photographs have a deadpan formality that simultaneously belies and heightens the absurdity of the subject matter.

But the gum--chewed, stretched, pinched--is elegant, after all.  So is the play of dimensions within the work itself, in which a resolutely two-dimensional medium, photography, imparts to a three-dimensional substance more mass, weight, and depth than it could ever have, fresh out of the artist's mouth, considered with the naked eye.

Karen Kedmey