Postmasters Gallery

Radek Szlaga 

Kill Your Idols 


20122 MILANO, IT

This really happened, even though it sounds like a scenario from a Hollywood production in the early 1990s. In 1989, Manuel Noriega, the runaway dictator of the Republic of Panama, fled from the invading American troops and sought refuge in Panama’s embassy of the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Nunciature of the Vatican. The command of the US Armed Forces chose to confront him with the use of, not only Delta Force operatives, whose orders were to seize him, but also with the so-called psy-ops, Psychological Operations Group who deployed a massive PA system outside the embassy blasting heavy metal to the self-proclaimed opera enthusiast. Apparently, Mr. Noriega did not enjoy Metallica’s Enter Sandman, Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses, nor Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Several days into this acoustic assault, Noriega, clad in a military uniform, a toothbrush and a Bible in hand, emerged from the building. He was immediately accosted by television cameras. “Yo soy el General Noriega. Me rindo a las fuerza de los Estados Unidos.” I am General Noriega, and I am surrendering to U.S. forces, were his only words as he gave himself in to the US servicemen.

Radek Szlaga (b. 1979) captures the absurd, anecdotal and humorous aspects of this story in a new series of works. Born to witness the dismantling of the communist regime in Poland, Szlaga relocated to the United States with his family in the 1990s. Never settling down, living in several European countries, he currently claims Belgium as his home. His childhood fascinations with the American luster, in particular the idea of the USA as a global superpower continue to seep into his works in ever new constellations. Only that the artist also is plenty aware of the disconnect between this projected image and the everyday reality of the American omnipotent hegemony crumbling down and dissipating into the past. Szlaga developed a forceful atlas of imagery that casts diverse events and personas as actors in his paintings and who serve as excellent subjects for the discussion about the shape of the contemporary world.

Basilica di  San Celso hosts the seemingly radical narrative staged by Szlaga. Kill Your Idols takes its title from the writing on a t-shirt worn by Guns N’ Roses’ leader Axl Rose, one of the unsung heroes of the infamous playlist that forced Noriega into submission.

Much like the dictator of Panama, Axl Rose emerges weary and worn-out, rendered by Szlaga in a sculpture. Rose is a man now in his sixties, physically a long way from the poster idol he is remembered as. It is not a mockery; it is rather an unforgiving truth which makes one think of the erosion of ideas, norms, and dogmas that the two men once thrived upon. Malarstwo (Polish for ‘painting’) spelled by Szlaga with the iconic Metallica typeface, is as much a reckoning of the artist’s fantasy of a universal, empowering global power, as it is a jeer at the way the output of the American creative industry has been weaponized and driven into overkill. Some of this music will never sound the same, but now, go ahead: kill your idols.

This exhibition is supported by PostmastersROMA, Instituto Polacco di Roma,  LAQ - lartquotidien, and Basilica di San Celsio.