Representation and Identification: HAP Grieshaber’s Polish Way of the Cross
The two expressions representation and identification are key words of the artistic program of Expressionist art.
Expressionism, if it were possible to reduce this multi-form movement to a common denominator, takes the past and its stories and recreates them for the present. However, the story is no longer a succession of events separated by the logic of space and time. Narration becomes representation, the story is abbreviated until it fits the concise space of the icon. Using to a maximum the expressive power of reduced pictorial form, Expressionism delivers a message where details and the narrative movement are abandoned for the sake of what counts most - the essential. Representing the essential, Expressionism wants it to be pondered and assimilated. Expressionist art has reached its goal when it succeeds in achieving identification between the artwork and the onlooker. Expressionism is committed art, and in turn, it wants commitment from those who approach it.
We have a typical example of such a program and expectations in the Polish Way of the Cross created in 1967 and 1969. Intended originally to adorn the Church of the Atonement in Auschwitz, a project which never saw the light of day, the Polish Stations are, in some way, an example of collaboration between art and church. Grieshaber's woodcuts, for which he cut his own blocks, were published in 1967 upon request of the artist, together with the text of the Way of the Cross written by Cardinal Wyszynski. The 1967 publication, limited to fifty copies, bears the title: HAP Grieshaber, Way of the Cross. Meditations by Stephen Cardinal Wyszynski. The series of fourteen woodcuts exhibited here corresponds to number 25/50.
We are presenting Grieshaber's fourteen stations with the idea of shared experience in mind. As mentioned in the beginning, Expressionist art seeks actualization in its reader or spectator. Actualization happens when representation leads to identification. Thus, after pointing to the biblical or apocryphal roots of each station (Roots), this presentation of the Way of the Cross will suggest some of the major expressive pictorial elements (representation), and invite the reader to attempt identification with the message (Identification).
Roten, Johann G., "Representation and Identification: HAP Grieshaber’s Polish Way of the Cross" (2014). Books and Book Chapters by University of Dayton Faculty. 131.