Art on View
Karen Emenhiser
Published by Detour Magazine: May, 1991

[excerpt from 500X Gallery exhibition review]


Szafranski's work is the most complex visually and metaphorically. His assemblages are those of mad inventor with anarchistic tendencies and a bizarre aptitude for interior decoration (or interior desecration, as some may say). He has a preference for housewares items and domestically oriented fixtures. Over the years he has served up aluminum gutters, lamp bases, table tops, baby bottle nipples, beaded curtains, venetian blinds... Szafranski has a gift for recognizing the artistic fulfillment buried in stacks of conduit and discontinued  light bulbs much as Michelangelo spied out the saint lurking in a slab of marble. Such elements give his work a happy suburban veneer, but beware the underlying current; its voltage level is set on disturb.

One of the most elegant pieces in the show is Vogue Oil-Glo Device, a sort of hanging lamp with serenely minimal lines of an industrial flavor. Conduit forms the skeleton of a rectangular cube. On each of the four sides Szafranski has installed two flame-shaped bulbs of the variety used to mimic the cozy flickering of an oil lamp. However, the bulbs, with their saw toothed filaments glowing hot orange, leave cozy behind and become distinctly confrontational. The romantic bursts of nerve scrambling screech emanate mercilessly from buzzers placed on each of the four corners. (Sensurround! beams the artist, shut it off sez I!) It is sublimely obnoxious.

The Cause
                    of Movers and ShakersThe Cause of Knockers feasts on an almost universally shared fear of door to door salesman, particularly those with A Mission. The piece starts off with a disk approximately four feet in diameter sporting a gruesome pock marked surface, red on red, achieved by encouraging a certain revenge that oil and water indulge in when forced to mix. A shiny brass knocker is centered in the morass. There is a peep-hole, so naturally and with understandable trepidation, the viewer tip-toes up to peek at what lies beyond. And lo! Hovering in a blast of florescence, is one of those little pamphlets (also red) promising in gothic letters: Comfort, Assurance and Salvation. Fortunately, it's only art, so you needn't decide whether to open up or sneak off quietly and pretend you're not home.

The Cause of Movers and Shakers (mad inventors spend a good deal of time defining cause and effect) coudl only be conceived in a state where gubernatorial candidates entertain the masses with tales of their innocent youth in bordellos. A fluorescent halo supports a ten foot tall curtain made up of red bamboo and beads. This bit of beautified exotica is suspended from a curvaceous motor that, in its past life, hooked up to a strap that fat people would wrap around their mid-section so as to jiggle the lard away. When turned on, the beads gyrate with a comic madness commensurate with the finest in Lone Star buffoonery.

Don't let the humor fool you. Szafranski is a serious artist whose standards for his own work are as stringent as his observation of the sanctimonious set are barbed. There is a logistical harmony, a resonance of form and ideas that seem to be the province of mad inventors and the hyper-analytical.