Born in Warsaw, Piotr Uklanski is an artist whose creative vision thrived in the suffocating climate of Polish communism, only to be set free years later in America. He provoked thought and indignation via multiple mediums such as photography, installation, sculpture and painting. Now, his works are compiled into a monograph Piotr Uklanski: Fatal Attraction. After a comprehensive study, one can realise the allure of his art. Here is a brief introduction.
He moved to New York just after the fall of communism.
Growing up in the Soviet-controlled country, in 1991 Uklanski moved to the US and debuted with his iconic work Untitled (Dance Floor) in 1996. A sculpture integrated minimal means, where Uklanski recreated a sound-activated, LED floor of a disco hall – place for social interaction. Since that time, his life has been divided between Warsaw and New York.
The Nazis and politics were his interests.
In November 2000, Uklanski organised a photo exhibition in Warsaw’s Zacheta. Featuring 164 headshots of famous actors playing the role of a Nazi, Uklanski played with a typically mass culture medium and confronted the idea of a German citizen. The display ended up closed quite soon, while some of the works have been completely damaged.
Kitsch impressed him.
‘Joy of Photography’ was Uklanski’s special project, where he compiled a series of trivial graphics of flowers, setting suns and exotic animals. He questioned the photographer’s role and what are the scenes of beauty that can amaze and maintain originality. Cliches worked for him quite well.
He searched for a line between art and entertainment.
‘Entertainment/art-please tell me what the difference is.’ A leaflet accompanying Untitled (Dance Floor) was a manifest of sorts, where Uklanski let out his doubts over navigating the boundaries of art. His diverse body of work always floated between a spectacle and a social comment, controversy and freedom of artistic expression, honest beauty and banality.
His art exudes ‘cheerful pessimism’.
That’s how MET’s curator, Douglas Eklund, defined Uklanski’s art. With his specific sense of humour, he derived from cultural discourse and both of his exhibitions at MET, Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklański Selects from the Met Collection and Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklański Photographs utlimately reflected artist’s ironic and smart approach to artmaking.
Piotr Uklanski: Fatal Attraction is out via Rizzoli on August, 9th.