Art stations fundation - by Grażyna Kulczyk

04.11.2010 - 22.01.2011
Art Stations gallery

free admission


04.11.2010 – 21.01.2011 
galeria Art Stations

04.11.2010 7:00 p.m.

Paulina Kolczyńska

exhibition design::
Raman Tratsiuk

The exhibition we proudly present to conclude the 2010 program at the Art Stations Foundation in Poznań is one more, parallel show of two artistic stances and at the same time of two artists representing different generations, backgrounds and interests.

The most recent, monumental work by Piotr Uklański inspired us to present it side by side with paintings and theatre objects by Tadeusz Kantor. The works are combined in two parallel presentations with a view to creating the conditions for an interaction of objects within the perspective of their individual contexts and a transformation of signification and iconography as proposed by Uklański.

Uklański’s work titled The Year We Made Contact, 2010 is an installation whose principal element is a huge textile surface, a tapestry whose style, form of expression and stage quality invoke the recognizable climate of Tadeusz Kantor’s and Józef Szajna’s theatre. Hence its original composition, its spatial, quasi-theatrical arrangement and color palette bear all the traces of the great tradition of Polish artistic textiles of the 1960s and 1970s. An inseparable part of the work is a free-standing round and red painting titled Red Dwarf, inscribed into the field of the aforementioned painting. Both elements make up an inseparable whole that appropriates the space they are located in. 
In deciding to execute his work in such a recognizable form and style, Uklański created something that further continues his earlier artistic program. He seeks ever new strata of signification contained in stereotypes, cultural symbols and national myths.

The artist, who since 1991 has lived in New York, has worked with photography, film, video, and installation. Both his artistic expertise and fascinations invariably oscillate around popular culture. Drawing at will on its wealth and strongly inspired by it, Piotr Uklański does not shun visual clichés. However, in the creative process he never deconstructs them completely, although he is known for sweeping reconfigurations of significance through a shift of context (Dance Floor, 1996, where a disco dance floor with pulsating lights was transferred to a gallery, thanks to which the object seemed to acquire the features of a minimalist sculpture). He is likewise famous for his ability to bring out surprising qualities of an object despite its context (the infamous series of photographs titled The Nazis, where the aesthetic quality of the work showing handsome men in uniforms obstructed the historical and somber context of the portraits).

In the case of The Year We Made Contact, 2010, the artist seems to be superimposing a unique layer of significance onto a clearly defined and recognizable stylistic layer. The title of the installation invokes a science-fiction movie from the 1980s, while an element of spatial composition under the telling title Red Dwarf is but a visual interpretation of a burning out star, as unmistakably suggested by its name.

The idea of introducing Tadeusz Kantor’s paintings and objects and their inclusion into a joint artistic space with a new installation by Piotr Uklański and its signifying context offers a unique opportunity for isolating those features and forms of expression that inspired the young artist’s work. The presence of the original canvases and dummies of the founder of Cricot 2 Theatre therefore plays an important role in the interpretation process, highlighting tradition and stressing those aspects of Uklański’s art that do not succumb to it.

Scrutinizing the sources and origins of the style, symbolism and expressiveness of Kantor’s theatre, it is worthwhile to relate them to rarely available paintings of matter of the late 1950s and early 1960s, on display during the show. These paintings, along with works on canvas from the time Kantor was fascinated with the aesthetic of informel – which incidentally integrated the achievements of the Polish artist with the global avant-garde – will be displayed next to objects from the first performance of Cricot 2 – In a Little Manor House.

The premiere of this historic and greatly acclaimed introduction of the informel theatre took place on 14 January 1961. It was during that performance that the actors were treated on a par with objects and, stripped of their individual traits, composed an indistinguishable mass. As Kantor himself observed: “…people in a wardrobe have become similar to the clothes hanged there, deprived of their own will”. Therefore the presentation at the Art Stations Foundation offers a unique chance for comparing the “stylistics of a lack of form” of the substance of painting and its transgression to symbolic theatre space.

The public will have a chance to see Kantor’s legendary Wardrobe as a new venue of theatre space and at the same time an object which the artist imparted with a new meaning of a “metaphysical” theatre prop. The characteristic stylistic features of the mannequins-objects will supplement the show and contribute to their coherent if varied spatial composition.

A set of painted works exhibiting the inclusion into the framework of a painting of “low-ranking” objects, such as a battered umbrella, is an important section of the show. Elements of so-called “ready-made reality” are exhibited in the visualization of unimportant objects empty of artistic value, who are restored to the visual character of an art work. Within this group, special attention must be paid to an amazing and intriguing correlation of unsophisticated materials, for instance unprimed canvas, in the case of two paintings from the suite It All Hangs by a Thread.

The design of the exhibit at the Art Stations Foundation, the stage set and the idea of juxtaposing works of two artists, Tadeusz Kantor and Piotr Uklański, facilitate reflection on the intermingling of styles and traditions, on the search for new forms in the context of avant-garde symbolism of theatre and kindred visual arts. They also allow a more profound analysis on the essence and message of works that make up individual elements of this coherent spatial composition.

We hope that the juxtaposition we have proposed will provide an impetus for a fruitful debate, which might invoke the polemics taking place during the Biennale at the Whitney Museum, New York, during this year’s premiere of Piotr Uklański’s installation.

It is worth noting that Piotr Uklański’s work from the Grażyna Kulczyk Collection, which premiered this year during the Biennale at the Whitney Museum, is being presented for the first time in Poland. All of Tadeusz Kantor’s paintings also come from the Grażyna Kulczyk Collection. Theatre objects were made available by the “Cricoteka” Center for Documenting Tadeusz Kantor’s Art in Krakow.

Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990) One of the most recognizable Polish theatre authors and artists in the world. Painter, stage designer, director, actor, animator of happenings, poet, art theoretician. Precursor of Polish avant-garde. Founder of contemporary Polish theatre, which transformed excessively with the author from “informel” theatre to “zero” theatre and so called “theatre of death” in The Dead Class. Painting and theatre were intertwined throughout Kantor’s life and remained interchangeable until the end.

Among his many exhibitions, special importance should be given to shows in the following: Galerie de L’Université A.G (Paris 1966), Demarco Gallery (Edinburgh 1972), Whitechapel Art Gallery, Main&small galleries (London 1976), Centre d’Arts Contemporains (Orlean 1990), Sezon Museum of Art (Tokyo 1994), Itami City Museum of Art (Hyogo 1995), The Czech Museum of Fine Arts, (Prague 2003), as well as numerous attempts at reinterpreting this oeuvre within the framework of “Festival Krakow 2000 – European City of Culture” and the show “Tadeusz Kantor. The Interior of Imagination” (“Zachęta” Warsaw, “Cricoteka” Krakow 2005).

Tadeusz Kantor’s works can be found in many state and private collections. The most important among them is the “Cricoteka” Center for Documenting Tadeusz Kantor’s Art in Krakow, established in 1980. It is an archive, gallery, research institution, and a “museum”.

Piotr Uklański was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1968. He studied painting at 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), 1996 - 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 in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Tate Modern in London, and Ludwig Museum in Cologne. Uklanski represented Poland at the 26th Sao Paulo Biennale; he took part in The 50th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, The 63th Venice Film Festival and the most recently – in 2010 Whithey Biennal at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Uklański's work often draws polemical reactions since the artist does not shy away from potentially controversial subjects. His photographic series '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, Daniel Olbrychski, while on view in Zacheta Gallery in Warsaw, in 2000. 
Uklański's billboard 'Untitled (Ioannes Paulus PP.II Karol Wojtyła)', 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.

In 2006, Uklański debuted his first feature-length film entitled Summer Love: The First Polish Western. Written, produced and directed by Uklański, this allegorical western features Polish film stars Boguslaw Linda and Katarzyna Figura as well as Val Kilmer in the role of the Dead Man. Summer Love has received numerous accolades, including its premiere as part of the official selection of the 2006 Venice Film Festival and its nomination for the Gucci Group Award in 2007. It has been the only Polish movie theatrically released in the US.

Artist’s works are part of private and public collections, among them: Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, Tate Modern in London, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Migros Museum in Zurich, Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Peter Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris, e.a.

Currently Uklanski has been working on his upcoming solo shows at the Lever House and the Gagosian Gallery in New York, as well as on his retrospective show at Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw, to be opened in 2011.