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The Artful Traveler: Opus + One

"Body" by Jean-Luc Moulène. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris. Photo: Bill Jacobson, New York.

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.


  Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

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