Key factors in the work of the artist Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen, Solingen, Germany, 30 November 1943 - Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2 March 2020) are processes of (chemical) change, switching between identities, and embracing uncertainty and chance. From the outset of his artistic career, Ulay’s work engaged with the world at large, articulating an intense and very immediate relationship with social change and with the unfolding of (recent) histories.
Ulay settled in Amsterdam in the late nineteen sixties, when the city was a hotbed of experiment both socially and politically, and in the arena of the visual artists. Ulay’s ties with Amsterdam remained; he spent part of his time living and working in the city. Over the years, the Stedelijk bought work by Ulay, as well as pieces that date from his collaboration with Marina Abramović.
PIONEER OF POLAROID PHOTOGRAPHY, PERFORMANCE AND BODY ART
Ulay’s work exists on the intersection of photography and the conceptually-focused approaches of performance and body art. Polaroid photos, unique objects and, in his case, often exceptionally large images, are fundamental to his oeuvre. This show pivots around four themes that amplify the contemporary relevance of Ulay’s work: his focus on performance and the performative aspects of photography; his research into gender identity and the body as a medium; his engagement with social and political issues and his relationship with Amsterdam.