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Piotr Uklański, Untitled (Skull), 2000, platinum print, 21 5/8 × 17 5/8 × 1 1/2".

Piotr Uklański

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Piotr Uklański, Untitled (Skull), 2000, platinum print, 21 5/8 × 17 5/8 × 1 1/2".

The best of Piotr Uklański’s pictures are marked by an ironic morbidity: Untitled (Skull), 2000—one of thirty-one works in this Doug Eklund–curated survey of the Polish Conceptual artist’s photography—makes this clear. It is a striking photo, featuring naked male and female bodies arranged to form a skull, such that life and death, Eros and Thanatos, are inseparable, even interchangeable—impossible to distinguish. And if the work looks familiar, that is certainly no mistake. The picture is a near-exact copy of Salvador Dalí’s 1951 photograph In Voluptas Mors, but with an important difference: Uklański himself takes the central position.

This jokey act of appropriation and theatrical self-aggrandizement points to some of the larger themes present in Uklański’s work—about images, about performance, about the deceptive illusions and preoccupations of mass media.

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