There are few artists in the art world producing work as diverse and enthralling as Piotr Uklanski. A true Renaissance man, he holds titles like photographer, painter, sculptor, filmmaker and performer. His work has already been the subject of several exhibitions, including the recent Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklanski Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, he is getting another exhibit, this one focusing on his torn paper collages.
Uklanski has been producing his collages since 2000. The symbolism of torn paper – usually representing anger, failure or distress – becomes transformed by the artist, with the art emerging as a triumphant victory. He focuses on the tears, highlighting them rather than hiding them away, and so creating a modern-day mosaic. The layers of paper give dimension to the pieces, making them more than just run-of-the-mill collage art. Depictions of war, bombs and other volatile forms of destruction are fittingly represented in work that requires such dynamic personal movement that the act of tearing paper demands. But some works are more playful, such as “Best Pimple Pop, Ever” or even the sexual depiction of “Untitled (TBD1)”. In any of these works, the paper is the focus, never relegated to merely a backdrop, but instead as the main material.
Using such a basic technique and materials (paper and gouache paint), Uklanski presents a contrast between art made for an elite group, yet made out of simple resources and constructed in such a simple way. The work manages to transcend barriers in its symbolism and messages, becoming something you can’t look away from.