Miroslaw Balka. Moulting. 1988

Miroslaw Balka Moulting 1988

  • Not on view

Balka uses humble materials that are resonant with meaning: dust, ashes, salt, and pine needles still smelling of the Polish forest where they were gathered. Silent and dour, his often wretched objects take on a certain sacredness, dignity, and even grandeur, but instead of being expressions of faith, his vessels, wooden constructions, and depictions of the human body are empty relics. They do not prove, but rather question, the presence of a merciful God. In its austerity Balka's work gives expression to the existential anguish produced by the trauma of the Holocaust.

Balka has made drawings throughout his career, but Moulting stands out for its size, its material complexity, and its almost sculptural presence. Depicting a headless and armless male figure floating on a background of pine needles, it alludes to a Catholic relic and to a human body returned to the earth. The small pile of pine needles that sits in front of the drawing reinforces the visual metaphor of a gravesite while giving a three-dimensional quality to the whole. This drawing is part of the broader investigation of the bodily trace that has informed Balka's work since the late 1980s.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Moder, p. 90.
Pencil, colored pencil, gesso, and pine needles on paper installed with pile of pine needles on floor
65 1/4 x 89 1/2" (165.7 x 227.3 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by Mildred Rendl- Marcus
Object number
© 2021 Miroslaw Balka
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