Phil Wagner and Jean-Luc Moulène at The Arts Club
Mayfair’s The Arts Club is home to a new display of works by esteemed artists Phil Wagner and Jean-Luc Moulène. The exhibition is a must-see, not for its beauty, but for its incomprehensibility. So why do these pieces deserve to be displayed?
Positioned on the first floor of the old-school Arts Club, with its carpeted staircase, cloakroom and polished oak bar, the works of Moulène and Wagner stick out like sore thumbs. Wagner’s collection, in particular, causes retina repulse. Hanging harshly over a beautifully polished grand piano is a crucified canvas: nails jut out of pieces of battered wood, a broken bicycle wheel that looks like it hasn’t seen the rest of a bike since the early 80s hangs beneath and splattered next to this is the yellow splodge of an ex-drawer.
Wagner, who was in attendance, said that he “found objects have a soul and depth that cannot be fabricated and reproduced, and if used wisely can give a work a personality and character”. If one was to head down to his local landfill site, then a reproduction of Wagner’s work wouldn’t be much of challenge.
It isn’t, however, just the “detritus of East LA” that Wagner uses as his inspirational catalyst. From salvaging junk and giving the disregarded new life and hope, Wagner, somewhat contradictorily, also buys material. In an artistic turn-around, he shells out for quality steel and crumples it “into complex compositions”, a flowery way of saying he destroys material that many families would find extremely useful.
It’s asserted that: “Wagner’s work indulges in sumptuous tensions between trash and prized object.” There is no tension, especially no “sumptuous tension”. It is clear what Wagner has done: he has turned prized objects into trash. What is even more infuriating is that in true pretentious, self-indulgent form, Wagner hasn’t titled any of his works. “Untitled” they all read.
Though the four Moulènes on display (compared with the nine Wagners) are less infuriating, they are rather more dull. One canvas is completely red, another blue, another green and the last, only slightly more interesting), is a Chanel collage.
In conclusion, these “radicals“, whose works have usurped the pleasant interiors of The Arts Club, are not to everybody’s artistic taste, but they, especially Wagner, successfully evoke emotion. It is just a question of what emotion, for you, that may be.
Photos: Laramie Shubber
Phil Wagner and Jean-Luc Moulène are at The Arts Club from 30th January until 30th April 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.