Free admission (all visitors, all hours)
This exhibition presents works from Uklański’s new series of large-scale paintings inspired by the complex Orientalist heritage of Poland, his country of origin. Uklański’s lushly rendered re-interpretations of historical portraits find the Warsaw-born, New York-based artist expanding his longstanding engagement with questions of nationalist ideologies, representations of masculinity, and personal identity while redressing contemporary suppression of Eastern Europe’s deep and felicitous connections to the Middle East. Sifting through centuries of obscure art historical source imagery, Uklański has updated antique depictions of white European subjects robed in the clothing of the Orient—turbans, richly patterned fabrics, ornate Eastern jewelry, and more—to suggest the sitters’ desire to merge the allure of otherness with their existing identities.
Executed in ink and acrylic on deeply colored velvet, burlap, or canvas, the Ottomania paintings recuperate a complex, centuries-old cultural cross-pollination between East and West to contradict both the extreme Islamophobia of today’s Western political culture, and the academic community’s categorizations of Orientalism as unilaterally essentialist. Uklański’s new canvases celebrate Europe’s undeniable romance with the Islamic cultures of Turkey, Persia, and North Africa, while inviting viewers to question their coded content.