Piotr Kowalski, whose art works and researches as to relationships among art, sciences and technologies made him one of the pioneers of the so-called technological art during more than the last three decades, died Jan 7th in a Paris hospital. He was suffering of pneumonia and of a permanent lungdisease due to the chemical materials absorbed by working. Kowalski , aged 76, was born in 1927 in Lvov, in Ukraina, later Poland. After the Second World War, aged 18, he left his town where he worked as a fitter, and went travelling all over Europe, South America and the USA. He settled in Boston where he started his amazing career studying architecture, physics and mathematics at the MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In France, from the beginning of the 50’s, Kowalski worked in many fields and with major architects such as Leoh Ming Pei, Marcel Breuer, Jean Prouvé. He concentrated on arts, mainly on sculpture and open space installations, relatively late and he belonged to the technological artists who started from a solid scientifical background. He was always interested in the relationship between plastic art and architecture. In fact, one of his issues was to inhabit the Earth in a poetic way, but always in a kind of ‘modernist’ equilibrium with a rational scientifical attitude. At the end of the 50’s he focused his efforts on plastic arts, using a large spectrum of materials, engines and skills, from glass to plastic, but also electric motors, magnetic fields, light, motion and, later, computers and digital technics. As a matter of fact, in the early 60’s he worked with light and motion, very near the Art Luminocinétique as this was realized by the Groupe de Recherches d’Art Visuel of Nicolas Schoeffer.
Kowalski’s first significant exhibitions were the one in Bern, in 1963, organized by Harald Szeeman, and the Paris show at the ARC in 1969, curated by Pierre Gaudibert. In 1981, his Time Machine project was an event in Paris Centre Pompidou and, by means of a comprehensible debate, time was assumed by the artist as materia prima, a raw material that can be manipulated by the artist himself.
French citizen from 1971 onwards, he was a teacher at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, from 1987 to 1992. A comprehensive one man show was dedicated to him at La Défense, Paris, in 1991. Kowalski’s works are to be found – and some of them are site specific realized – in several European Countries, the Usa, Japan, Corea.
As another artist and author, Claude Faure, said about him, Kowalski’s strained, as an artist-scientist, in order to give people the keys to decode technological systems and languages, also with the purpose to reveal a potential poetic and cognitive side. At the end of the 80’s, in Paris, Piotr Kowalski, Claude Faure and Piero Gilardi established Ars Technica, one of the historical clubs where artists and scientists crossed for years their languages and experiences together. There the writer of this article met Piot Kowalski for the first time.
Since 1994, Piotr had been advisor of Art and Tecnology of the MIT, Boston, and I remember him rather open to his students’ needs and visions.