The Artful Traveler: Opus + One
By Bobbie Leigh
Don’t be misled. The Dia Art Foundation exhibition of Jean-Luc Moulène’s Opus + One is not an IQ test. You don’t have to “get it” to relish what this immensely poetic artist is presenting. At Dia Beacon, there are no labels, no wall texts, just the work (Opus) in magnificent large galleries. In one space, 37 objects from the ongoing series Opus (1995-present) are displayed on the floor, on matching tables, or on pedestals. Each work, made from natural and manufactured materials – bronze, cardboard, cement, fiberglass, and wood among others –is a three-dimensional form. Each has a precise title which you can discover from printouts distributed before you go to the show. They are not much help. Arthur (2010) is made of concrete and bone. Cartilege (2009) consists of epoxy, resin, and rubber. Others such as Juice Box (2005) and Staircase Fall (2008) are less enigmatic. For this artist, sculpture is an investigation always challenging the authority of the past.
According to the press release: “Several works within the group resemble a scale model or maquette in their pragmatism and unfinished quality, while others are life-size references to the human body or animal organs.” One way to view this group is to put aside any questions of identity and just enjoy three-dimensional constructs which are unlike anything you have probably ever seen before.
The show at Dia is the first solo show for Moulène, who is much better known in Europe as both a photographer and conceptual artist than here. In another gallery his colossal Body (2001) is displayed. Produced by Renault Automobiles, it references a vehicle but its shape is amorphous. “When the automotive world and the contemporary art world collide, amazing works result,” says Moulène. This monumental, riveting work consists of twelve sections. Each is painted in three primary colors, with each hue fading to white. Oddly, it conveys something human and doesn’t seem at all like something that has been produced at a car factory.
The third gallery presents La Vigie (2004-2011) referring to the watchman or lookout on a sailboat. The single subject presented in 299 photographs is a brave little green plant which grows in the cracks of a sidewalk near the artist’s home in Paris. During seven years, the artist recorded daily events on the sidewalk and various incidents that occurred in his neighborhood which happens to surround the French Ministry for the Economy, Industry and Employment. The photographs are both sensual and sensitive, almost an endearing record of an ever-shifting landscape. Go to Dia and discover a challenging artist who transforms the commonplace in witty small-and-large scale works.
Opus + One will be on view at Dia: Beacon through December 31, 2012. Beacon, New York is about 90 minutes north of Manhattan, visit the website for details.