Critics’ Picks

Untitled (Polonia), 2005.


Piotr Uklanski

Perrotin | Paris
76 rue de Turenne
June 4–July 30

In 2003, Polish artist Piotr Uklanski comically proposed a cultural lineage when he spray painted the walls of the Frieze Art Fair with graffiti that read BOLTANSKI, POLANSKI, UKLANSKI. The graffiti is back in “Polonia,” his solo exhibition at Emmanuel Perrotin, which finds the artist continuing to explore notions of national identity. A monumental red and white enameled glass sculpture dominates the main gallery—at once an homage to Minimalism and an enlargement of the Polish flag. Also on view is a sculpture of Poland's ubiquitous imperial eagle made of pieces of white polystyrene. Uklanski's works frequently borrow from masterpieces in order to apprehend not only his own national history but the genealogy of cliché, and his work shows how the assumptions and misunderstandings surrounding such clichés give rise to the establishment of conventional forms. In one recent work, he had soldiers from the Brazilian army assemble in a formation that, when photographed from above, constituted a portrait of Pope John Paul II. After the Pope's death, this work, despite its great ambiguity, was exhibited at the Palace of Culture in Warsaw and became a place of meditation, a new icon for Poland. So, too, the eagle magnificently born of the assemblage of polystyrene fragments—except that this symbol of Polish identity is highly flammable.

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.