Magazine article Artforum International

Jean-Luc Moulene: Miguel Abreu Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Jean-Luc Moulene: Miguel Abreu Gallery

Article excerpt

After visiting Jean-Luc Moulene's "Torture Concrete" at Miguel Abreu Gallery this past fall, one would have been forgiven for scratching one's head. The artist's diverse, astringent work, which has ranged from monochrome paintings and landscape photographs to enigmatic sculptures comes wrapped in an aura of obdurate difficulty--the implacable air of the deadly and complex. Split between the gallery's two spaces, this show displayed thirty-seven pieces in various media, many (though not all) belonging to "Opus," 1995-, a series that was the subject of a major survey at DiaBeacon in 2011.

In a 2009 interview with art historian Briony Fer, Moulene articulated a mission statement of sorts: His work, he declared, is born of a desire to create "any nondescript object with exactitude." The original French uses the adjective quelconque, which can also be translated into English as "anything whatever" or "unspecific" and points to the phrase's self-consciously wry inversion (if not involution) of Donald Judd's "specific object." Fer goes on to invoke Judd's statement that a "form that's neither geometric or organic would be a great discovery." Moulene responds: " We know about other mathematical models, other, less dualistic geometries."Could such geometries lead toward the quelconque? To be sure, several works in the show see Moulene borrowing from the esoteric netherworlds of higher math--specifically, from a branch of topology called knot theory--where he has found a rich vocabulary of forms and procedures in which the categories of geometric and organic break down.

In fact, one way to view this exhibition was as a veritable Wunder-kammer of topological knots. At the Orchard Street space, a pair of nuzzling blown-glass sculptures modeled something called the Hopf link; seven glass and bronze works mounted on vertical poles at Eldridge Street reconstructed the first five prime, or "nontrivial," knots; nearby, a compact ravel of red, blue, and yellow blown-glass loops expressed Borromean rings; and a group of concrete heads cast from Halloween-mask molds were, the press release informed us, "another variation of the knot in its most condensed, simplest form of a single loop surface" (or a self-contained sphere). …

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