MACIEJ TOPOROWICZ - SELECTED PRESS
Mr. Toporowicz created a poster featuring a photograph of The Army, a sculpture of a male frontal nude by Hitlers’s favorite sculptor, Arno Breker, with the Obsession logo added to its bottom edge. The artist’s favorite spot to paste up the poster is the corner of Prince and Mercer streets in SoHo not far from the bus stops that often display the real Calvin’s. [...] he had put up more than 200 posters of this image around Manhattan. “This is a difficult issue,” he said. “What’s interesting is that when people see me putting up posters, they think they’re really Calvin Klein posters. The Nazi image blends so perfectly with his campaign, it’s hard to recognize the difference”.
- Carol Vogel, Inside Art, The New York Times, May 27, 1994
Didactic or not, it’s a bull’s-eye”.
- Roberta Smith, The New York Times, May 17, 1996
…Maciej Toporowicz’s disturbing video Obsession, 1991. Combining scavenged images from Nazi propaganda, Leni Riefenstahl films, and movies like Visconti’s The Damned (1969) and Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1973) with clips from Calvin Klein ad campaigns, the video is at once very disquieting and very seductive. Toporowicz is not implying that all these images are the same but demonstrates, on the contrary, that their differences are easily elided by both modern technology and the power of women’s body parts to arouse desire.
- Linda Nochlin, Artforum, Summer 2002
Toporowicz has been investigating desire and sexual obsession as they are manipulated in current advertisement. [...] In general, structural way, the artist is referencing the Berlin Dadaist John Heartfield who used a type of oppositional mimicry in his photomontages to subvert the propaganda of the National Socialists during the 1920s and ‘30s. [...] His framework is both political and ideological.
- Robert Morgan, Maciej Toporowicz at Lombard Freid Fine Arts, Art Press, Feb. 1998
[…] The issue of copyright and authenticity is questionable since the campaign seems to do the same with German Fascist imagery. The substitution of the Arno Breker statue with a nautilized Klein boy is flawless, in fact they are indistinguishable. […] Bruce Weber's [the photographer of the CK and the Ralph Lauren campaigns] photography has been under scrutiny since the mid-1980's. He can be written off as a visual clone of Leni Riefenstahl […]. When Tom Sokolowski criticizes Bruce Weber […] he brings to fore the schism between the pornographic and the tangible. The conspicuous absence of "others" in the images is fulfilled by one figure [...]: Kate Moss! [...]
She reenacts Charlotte Rampling in the 1970's, in the film Night Porter, and becomes the willingly submissive figure, the self-motivated object of Fascist desire. Kate Mosss image is fabricated as a Jewish concentration camp victim. […] The massification of society was a fundamental goal for Hitler. His image producers, such as Leni Riefenstahl, Albert Speer and others, produced the visual equivalent of that desire. In Toporowicz's works, the words obsession, escape and eternity begin to produce a frightening equivalence to massification, and the need to get away from it.
- from Toporowicz: Obsession by Vasif Kortun, Director, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY © 1995 Vasif Kortun
He creates a fragrance of his own, Lure, along with advertisements featuring not images of suggestively posed models, but real Asian women who work in massage parlors in Thailand. And he replaces the clean, happy infants in Baby Gap ads with their dirtier counterparts from a Thai orphanage.
- Roberta Smith, The New York Times, May 17, 1996
Seduction also constitutes the theme for Maciej Toporowicz’s Lure (1995), a perfume and mock advertising campaign that examines the devastating social effects and objectification of women prostitutes in Bangkok. Uncovering the reality behind fantasies of the exoticized Other, Lure brings attention to the young girls sold into the sex trade by impoverished parents and to whom little care is taken to educate about the dangers of AIDS.
- Jim Drobnick, Reveries, Assaults and Evaporating Presences, Parachute #89, 1998
Lure […] includes twenty copper toned photo-prints and perfumes in bottles bearing biohazard signs. […] They portray young Thai women prostitutes in hotel rooms and night clubs. […] The logo of the perfume "Lure" is silkscreened on each image. The logo is derived from the international biohazard sign and redesigned by the artist to evoke in a generic way "oriental" calligraphy. The perfume is custom made in reference to the artist's memory of Thailand – the scent of young prostitutes and the temples. […] The exhibition project articulates several divergent and seemingly unrelated situations in an engaging manner: The AIDS crisis and the plight of prostitutes in Bangkok: art world images of the corrupt, and paradoxically impenetrable and incorruptible images of youth (Araki, Nan Goldin and others): the self-reflexive cliches of the "European Man" finding himself both immersed in the eroticism of the "Other" […] and contemporary advertising photography that indulges on the youthful body as a site of unadulterated pleasure that is suspended between yesterday and tomorrow belonging clearly to neither. Toporowicz utilizes advertising's immediacy, effectiveness, and production of a collective desire to leave the viewer defenseless. […] The exhibition project does not attempt to make a grand statement to a faraway public that may feel righteous and concerned about the conditions existence in Thailand, nor does it attempt to individualize the portrayed to invite the viewer's pity. The perfume signifies the frustration of the "European Man", and his impossibility of understanding /conquering the "Other" no matter how much he dares to be Colonel Kurtz. "Lure" is what the viewer settles with-the border between a body and its culture where meaning is fleeting and transitory.
- from Maciej Toporowic: Lure by Vasif Kortun, Director, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY © 1995 Vasif Kortun
MOCK AD CAMPAIGNS
Maciej 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. In hopes of revealing the dangerous and hegemonizing psychology of capitalist culture, his Obsession series, for instance, 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 he took of HIV-positive children (Baby Gap) and Thai sex workers (Lure). Shiseido pour homme, a series of large, abstract, black-and-white photographs of female genitalia that even one of his dealers has described as “hard to look at,” landed the artist in a lawsuit with the cosmetics company targeted in the title.
- Sarah Valdez, Maciej Toporowicz at Lombard-Freid, Art in America, September 2000
With his disturbing appropriations of the ad styles of Calvin Klein, Gap and others, he appears to have a viciously satirical agenda. As he equates fashion with fascism, sexual attraction with death, or love with mental sickness, he uses the forms and devices of big budget campaigns to shocking effect.
- Lewis Blackwell, Maciej’s obsession, Creative Review, London, UK, spring 1997
...each drawn in quick, smudged fingerprints that show the figures as shadowy and indistinct […] At the same time, the fingerprints leave evidence, identification, and accountability with the artist, who becomes a stand-in for all of us.
- Cate McQuaid, Boston Globe, 2000