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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » January 31, 2013
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Between the Ordinary and the Beautiful
January 31, 2013   
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Forty and Four, a new exhibition at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, is the first Polish overview of the work of one of this country’s most prominent artists, Piotr Uklański. The pieces on display are shown in an unusual arrangement designed by Uklański himself.

The special setting illustrates the artist’s vision in the spirit of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art,” a work that makes use of all or many art forms) convention. For example, Uklański has transformed one of the gallery’s neo-classicist rooms into a cave using draped and dyed fabrics. Some of the paintings on show here are made of pencil shavings, ceramic mosaics, resins and other materials Uklański employs in his meta-painting techniques.

The exhibition includes new work, such as “Untitled (Obtuse)”, which is a monumental tapestry, a photographic series called “Untitled (Pornalikes)” and an installation called “Untitled (Polska Über Alles)” which contains emblematic pieces of Uklański’s earlier works entitled Dance Floor (1996) and Nazis (1998). The latter was shown at the Zachęta gallery in 2000 and gained some notoriety after Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski brought a saber to the gallery and cut up a photograph depicting him dressed in an SS uniform.

Uklański’s formally diverse, polemical and conceptually rigorous works earned him the reputation of one of the most intriguing artists of his generation back in the mid-1990s. Uklański crosses between different techniques with remarkable ease, changing projects and subjects and moving from sculpture to photography, from installation to performance art and from painting to film. The central theme of his work is the thin line separating the ordinary from the beautiful and transgression from banality.

The title of the exhibition refers to Uklański’s age. The artist was born in 1968 in Warsaw. A graduate of the Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw, he also studied photography at the Cooper Union School for Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. He lives and works in both New York and Warsaw. His work is part of the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.

Until Feb. 17
Zachęta National Gallery of Art
3 Małachowskiego St., www.zacheta.art.pl
Open Tue.-Sun. noon-8 p.m.
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