Wawrzyniec Tokarski: Galerie Vera Munro
Smolik, Noemi, Artforum International
They are not narrative images. Yet Wawrzyniec Tokarski's paintings tell stories--stories that wrap themselves like masks around the images, creep into the consciousness of the viewer and, above all, don't soon leave one in peace.
Tokarski, born in Gdansk but now living in Berlin, focuses his paintings on the typographical element of emblems, logos, and trademarks. In so doing, he circumvents the obvious impact of their visual triviality by forging conceptual connections with contradictory meanings: "Sprite" turns into "Spirit," or "Levis" into "Evil," or typographically recognizable traits from logos emerge partly manipulated, out of context, and charged with new significance. What had been simplistic and unequivocal gets torqued and bursts into irresolvable able polyvalence.
Tokarski's new works, exhibited under the programmatic title "You know what you have to do. Thanks"--but who knows what to do these days?--have become more painterly, more imaginative, and more generously proportioned, so that the typography of the logos and emblems no longer commands the surface of the image. Intense fields of color unfold across the large canvasses and the spliced-in codes are no longer always immediately recognizable. Environmental Damage, 2006, is a giant surface on which the traces of flowing blue paint fascinate the viewer. Emerging only gradually, on the lower edge and to the right, tiny and distorted by the traces of paint, is the symbol for the environment: a figure orbited by circles and which here is upside down. In P.C., 2005, the letters of the title float on a cloudy blue and green background, surrounded by laurels. In Safe, then Sorry, 2005, elements of the UN logo appear like a target against a pink and blue background. …