Richard Saltoun Gallery’s first solo exhibition with ULAY focuses on the artist’s remarkable photography and his long-standing commitment to exploring and expanding the medium.
Starting with Ulay’s early works in Polaroid from the 1970s, the exhibition spans to include performative photography, featuring new works exhibited to the public for the first time, as well as a film of one of his most important actions. The exhibition has been curated by Birte Kleemann.
Ulay is an unclassifiable artist whose trajectory amounts to a radically and historically unique oeuvre operating at the intersection of photography and the conceptually-oriented approaches of Performance and Body art. In the early 1970s, after training as a photographer, Ulay worked extensively as a consultant for Polaroid, which inspired him to start experimenting with the analogue camera and the instant photography it provided. Taking hundreds of self- portraits, each manipulated in a myriad of ways, Ulay developed an approach that was novel in both method and subject matter, using the camera as a tool to investigate and modify identity whilst exploring socially constructed notions of gender. By presenting himself in works like S’he (from the series Renais sense, 1973–74) as an ‘incoherent’ gendered being – half man, half woman – Ulay questioned not only his own sexual identity but also the hybrid, fluid nature of sexuality.
After exhausting the search for self-identity, Ulay embraced a photographic approach where he identified through others, depicting those deemed on the ‘outside’ of mainstream of society. In Irritation – There is a Criminal Touch to Art (1976), Ulay takes on the role of artist as social provocateur, using his work to comment on both the plight of the Turkish community in Germany, as well as the institutionalisation of art. Whilst accompanying his long-time collaborator Marina Abramović to Berlin, and weighed down by the city’s history, Ulay stole the 19th-century painting The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg, an artist and painting admired by Hitler, from the Neue Nationalgalerie. Escaping the museum’s guards, Ulay drove to Kreuzberg, a then segregated community of Turkish immigrants, and after informing the museum of his plan, installed the work in the living room of a Turkish family. Included in the exhibition at Richard Saltoun Gallery are photographs of the action, shown alongside a film describing the event.
ULAY (b. 1943, Solingen, Germany), the pseudonym of Frank Uwe Laysiepen, currently lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Ljubljana, Slovenia. Recent solo exhibitions and performances have been held at Depart Foundation, Los Angeles, CA, USA (2017); Cooper Gallery, Dundee, UK (2017); Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany (2016–2017); Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland (2016); Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2015); Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom (2013); C-Space, Beijing, China (2011); and National Centre for Contemporary Arts (NCCA), Moscow, Russia (2007). His work, along with his many collaborations with Marina Abramović, is featured in collections of major institutions around the world, including the Stedelijk Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, Kunstmuseum Bern, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Birte Kleemann has curated exhibitions with Rose Wylie and Pat O’Neill, as well as the group exhibition ‘Shakers and Movers’, performance art in Germany from the late 1950s to 1970s, featuring artists Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Jürgen Klauke, Valie EXPORT and many more – all for VW Berlin, Germany. In addition to her role as an independent curator, she has been Director of Michael Werner Gallery New York since 2011. For the gallery, she has organised the exhibition ‘Jörg Immendorff: LIDL Works and Performances from the 60s’, as well as other museum projects, such as Markus Lüpertz at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia in 2014 and A.R. Penck at Fosun Foundation, Shanghai, China in 2017. She is co-curator of a forthcoming survey show about art in Germany from the past 100 years with Nanjing University’s AMNUA Museum, opening March 2019. Kleemann is also the founding Art Editor of the fashion magazine KingKong, where features included: Edward Kienholz, Judith Bernstein, Ericka Beckmann, ULAY, Henri Levy, Ed Atkins, Adrian Piper and Peter Saul. Previously, she was Director at PACE Gallery, where she curated the survey ‘Joseph Beuys: Make the Secrets Productive’ and the extensive group exhibition ‘Berlin2000’. Prior to living in New York, Kleemann was Director at Galerie EIGEN+ART Berlin for six years and co- founded a contemporary gallery in the city in 2007. Further curatorial projects include ‘Misericordia’ at Prism LA, bringing together baroque art work with contemporary installations, and ‘Praxis’ at Wayne State University, Detroit, focusing on the diverse political movements of the US-Vietnam war era.Ulay, S'he, 1973. Auto-Polaroid type 107, 8.5 x 10.8 cm © Ulay