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Piotr Uklański in Gagosian Gallery in New York

00:00 12/04/2008


Piotr Uklański: BIAŁO - CZERWONA
March 27 – May 17, 2008

522 West 21st Street
NEW YORK, NY 10011
GALLERY HOURS: Tue – Sat: 10:00am– 6:00pm

“Biało-Czerwona” (white-red), referring to Poland’s bi-colored flag, is a nationalist slogan as
familiar to Poles as “Red, White, and Blue” is to Americans. Uklański’s title unites diverse works
that engage typical imagery of his native Poland and play on the red/white palette.

Although BIAŁO-CZERWONA is, on one level, authentically Polish, in its use of populist decorative
traditions and political symbols alluding to the country’s not-so-distant Communist past the exhibition is also a highly stylized performance of identity. In international contexts such as the 2004 Bienal de São Paulo, Uklański has represented Poland; elsewhere he has been labeled a
“New York artist” or an “international artist”: The art world demands that artists disavow their cultural authenticity one moment and embrace it the next. Uklański recognizes just how powerful this fluidity can be and uses this occasion to embody simultaneously the roles of international
artist, Gastarbeiter, new American, and patriotic Pole.

Throughout the exhibition, Uklański utilizes cheap materials to create works that draw on the celebratory ambitions and aggrandizing stagecraft of political events. By fusing such
propagandist gestures with vernacular techniques and materials borrowed from popular folk traditions - exemplified in Szopki Krakowskie (Christmas crèche scenes)and a site-specific mosaic fashioned from ceramic dishware—- he conjures an idealized vision of his homeland. Not
only does Uklański exploit the “exotic” quality of these indigenous forms; by reifying their very ordinariness, he elicits beauty from the confines of lo-fi objects. At once monumental and humble, collective and individual, profound and banal, theatrical and genuine, the works in BIAŁO - CZERWONA advance Uklański’s ongoing project to create deliberately unstable political, formal, and symbolic meaning in art.

Piotr Uklański was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1968. He studied painting in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and photography at the Cooper Union School for Advancement of Science and Art, in New York.
Piotr Uklański has emerged on the New York art scene in the mid-90s with an emblematic artwork, the Untitled (Dance Floor) - a sculpture that integrates the legacy of minimalism with the blurring of art and entertainment that characterizes the current era.
Dividing his time between New York and Warsaw, Uklański has constructed a diverse body of work that exploits as many types of media (sculpture, photography, collage, performance, and film) as it promiscuously absorbs cultural references. His work has been internationally exhibited in various contexts including the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, The 50th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia 2003, the 26th Sao Paolo Biennale 2004, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Kunsthalle Basel, Wiener Seccession, and Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
Uklański's work often draws polemical reactions since the artist does not shy away from potentially controversial subjects. His photographic series 'Untitled (The Nazis)' caused protests when exhibited in The Photographers Gallery in London, in 1998, and was destroyed in a publicity stunt staged by a celebrated Polish actor while on view in Zacheta Gallery in Warsaw, in 2000. Uklański's billboard 'Untitled (John Pope II)', on the other hand, when exhibited on the streets of Warsaw, was spontaneously turned into a memorial shrine after the Pope's death in 2005.

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