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Phil Wagner and Jean-Luc Moulène at The Arts Club

Work by Phil Wagner

Exhibition preview

WORKS by Phil Wagner and Jean-Luc Moulène will be on display at The Arts Club from January 30, 2013. Non-members can visit the exhibition on Wednesday and Saturday mornings (9am until 12pm) by booking an appointment in advance.

Car tyres and metal grids, bicycle wheels and drawers: this is the detritus of East LA, salvaged from offhand discard and made newly functional and aesthetic in Phil Wagner’s three-dimensional assemblages.

Following a long tradition of artists who source materials from the street, Wagner transforms his finds into highly formal artworks, rich with allusions to painting as well as to such modern-art masters as Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Beuys, but executed with Wagner’s singular vision.

Evoking the degradation of an object that has been through the wringer of consumer culture, Wagner has said, “Found objects have a soul and depth that cannot be fabricated and reproduced, and if used wisely can give a work personality and character.”

At a certain point, however, Wagner found the streets wanting and returned to his studio. Relying on the material vocabulary readily at hand – steel, spray paint, plywood, stuffs of the neighbourhood – Wagner turned his energies toward invention, crumpling bits of steel into complex compositions, some painted glossy and off-white, while others bear the urgent marks of spray paint.

Wagner’s work indulges in sumptuous tensions between trash and prized object, hi and lo culture as well as painting and sculpture, creating exciting visual feasts that affirm their own unique identities within the history of painting and assemblage.

Recognised for his meticulous and eclectic creative output, Jean-Luc Moulène moves fluidly between three-dimensional work, photography, drawing and printed matter. His career cannot be easily divided into periods or a single narrative but rather can be conceived, as he has said, as “one continuous performance” in which the reality of his surroundings are collected, rearranged and reframed.

Moulène deftly examines the moment when an object is so pushed out of its ordinary context that it verges on either being no longer itself or upturning its own definition.

The monochrome works in The Arts Club exhibition, for example, are executed in BIC pen ink – black, blue, green and red – applied by a flat knife, playing both with the idea of ‘paintings’, which they most resemble, and value since a BIC pen is one of the cheapest and most ubiquitous writing tools around.

An homage to standardised industrial production, they also acknowledge the more obvious artistic precedents of Yves Klein, Robert Ryman, Alighiero Boetti and recent preoccupations with abstraction in photography.

The exhibition is curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes.

The Arts Club, 40 Dover Street, London, W1