Time Out New York / January 28, 2011

Piotr Uklanski
GAGOSIAN GALLERY

In what the gallery refers to as a “mise en scène” of new works (well, it’s more original than installation), Piotr Uklanski repurposes the much-maligned craft of tie-dying as a critical alternative to more conventional oil-on-canvas painting. Tinting then bleaching bedsheets in time-honored hippie style, Uklanski produces vibrantly colored abstract panels with strong hints of cosmic figuration. With these works hung close together on walls papered in similar fashion, the overall effect of “Discharge!” (a term for the removal of color) is busy to the point of overload. From the cool blue wave of Wipe Out to the red-hot sunburst of Untitled (Atomic Ovum) and the starry sky of Yukon Sky, the 14 pictures packed into the main gallery lean heavily on the technique’s psychedelic impact.

But while his show generates an in-your-face visual buzz, the Polish artist is aiming for more than mere eye candy. Well aware of tie-dye’s pop-cultural heritage, but concerned too with the status of large-scale abstraction as the epitome of po-faced high modernism, Uklanski blends signifiers from opposite ends of the spectrum to produce a hybrid form that toys with the implications of both. It’s an approach familiar not only from the artist’s own previous projects, but within the game-playing context of post-Conceptual practice in general. Unfortunately, this truth to type finally softens the impact of the work, which depends more on simple nostalgia and a decorative impulse than its maker might have us believe. Its chromatic intensity notwithstanding, “Discharge!” mounts only the gentlest of critiques.



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