MACIEJ TOPOROWICZ - MORE ABOUT THE ARTIST
Toporowicz earned international renown with Obsession (photographs and video, 1993-2001), in which he showed that several decades after the fall of the Third Reich fashion dictators copycat the esthetics of Nazi ideology. This iconic work, first introduced by the artist through clandestine posting actions on the streets of Soho, is in the collection of The Jewish Museum where it was shown in the Mirroring Evil exhibition in 2001.
Didactic or not, it’s a bull’s-eye”
– Roberta Smith, The New York Times, 1996
Toporowicz has earned art-world notoriety for his mock ad campaigns, which take the esthetics of popular fashion brand names and imbue them with subversive content. […] his “Obsession” series associated Third Reich propaganda images of good-looking Aryans with images of beautiful people used in Calvin Klein’s perfume ads. In another effort to harden soft-edged conceptions of global consumer reality, Toporowicz made “ads” out of photos of HIV-positive children (“Baby Gap”) and Thai sex workers (“Lure”).
– Sarah Valdez, Art in America, Sep. 2000
Some of his projects employed illegal public actions like street posting (Obsession, New York, 1994), or stamp mailing (Serial Killers, USA, 1994; and Forza Italia, Italy, 1994 – a set of stamps with Mussolini printed and mailed by the artist from Italy after neo-fascist Forza Italia led by Il Duce‘s granddaughter entered the parliament). The artist was threatened with lawsuits for appropriating well-known logos (Calvin Klein, Gap, Prozac, Shiseido).
Toporowicz has consistently risked his health and tested the limits of law. While a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, he founded a performance duo AWACS with Piotr Grzybowski. The element of terror in their works echoed the oppressive reality of the communist regime. Their underground performances staged in Poland under Martial Law, which often involved taking physical risk such as electric shock or drowning, were inspired among others by Viennese Actionism, and were covered in High Performance magazine (Los Angeles, CA; 1982, 1983). Toporowicz left Poland in 1983, and arrived in NYC in 1985 as a political refugee.
The artist continues to create political works based on images imprinted in mass culture and doesn’t conceal his own fascination with objects of his critique: American gun culture, fetishization of violence and cult of celebrity. Created at the time of a heated debate over availability of weapons in the US and the role of NRA in national politics, two new series Disney Targets (acrylic on canvas, 2015) and Targets (collages, 2015) refer to his 1993 gouaches: Disney – a series of 6 drawings made with body prints, which sexualized famous cartoon characters, and Serial Killers – 42 portraits composed by fingerprints. In Car Plates (acrylic on canvas, 2015), he recreated license plates of automobiles involved in famous actual or cinematic death scenes: the Lincoln Continental in JFK’s assassination, the Ford V8 from Bonnie and Clyde, or James Dean‘s Porsche Spyder. In Car Crashes (archival pigment prints, 2015), he portrayed iconic wrecks of cars in which James Dean and Jackson Pollock were killed, the work itself referencing Andy Warhol’s interest in death as subject of popular culture.