View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This print is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.
Uklański’s contribution to the portfolio is a photolithograph of a semi-detached building on a residential street. The flat-fronted three-storey building is covered in pale red crazy-paving tiling, distinguishing it from the more sedate dark red brick building adjoining it to the left and the taller white clapboard building to the right. An orange-red awning with white piping projects above the door. A warm yellow light exudes from the centre window on the middle floor in striking contrast to the dark windows that surround it. At first glance the light appears to be the reflection of a low sun caught at just the right angle, but the overcast sky above the buildings suggests that the glow is coming from within the room. The artless framing of the picture makes it look like a snapshot; the image is cropped above the point where the building meets the ground. The sharp focus on the building has rendered blurry the fine branches of a tree in the foreground. The image has an expectant narrative quality as if the building is the site of an unknown drama.
Uklański is a Polish artist based in New York, where it is likely this image was taken. He works in a range of media but is arguably best known for Dance Floor, a site-specific installation first shown in 1996. This plexiglass disco floor is designed to light up in time with music that the artist pipes into the fine art spaces where it is shown. He also gained notoriety for a work entitled The Nazis, 1998, which consists of over 100 photographs of actors who have played Nazi officers and generals in films. More recently he took out a double-page spread in the art magazine Artforum to reproduce Untitled (GingerAss), 2002, a photograph of the Centre Pompidou Curator Alison M. Gingeras’ bottom. In each of these works he blurs the boundaries between art practice and the marketing-led strategies of consumer culture including music, film and pornography. This position has been interpreted as cynical by some critics. The artist himself has expressed his ambivalence about distinctions between high and low culture, saying, ‘Entertainment/art – please tell me what the difference is’ (quoted in Tone and Umland).
Lilian Tone and Anne Umland, Projects 72: John Armleder, Piotr Uklański, exhibition leaflet, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2000.
Kate Bush and Gregor Muir, Assuming Positions, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1997.
Bennett Simpson, ‘Piotr Uklański’, Frieze, no.59, May 2001, pp.93-4.