In his sixth solo exhibition at the gallery Meuser presents a group of new wall-based works and freestanding sculptures under the exhibition title “Kann ich mich hier auch selbst einweisen?“ (Can I Admit Myself To This Place?), a title that seems a logical follow-up to his 2014 show ”Herr Ober, zwei Doppelte“ (Waiter, Two Double Shots).
For more than 40 years Meuser has been finding his material, discarded industrial objects made from steel or iron, primarily at the scrapyard. The search for a suitable industrial relic is an essential part of his artistic process; as Meuser puts it: ”Scrap, there is tons of course but it contains a lot of rubbish." Ignoring the original function of the often bulky found objects, Meuser reworks them in the studio, welds them together, or sometimes simply paints them. With minimal interventions the artist thus constructs three-dimensional works that oscillate between sculpture and painting. The arrangement of the objects in the manner of an installation—in particular his wall-based works—facilitates an experience that is rather pictorial. Obvious signs of wear, like marks and scratches, in the material evoke painterly gestures. This effect is enhanced by coating the found objects with ordinary industrial paints and oil. At the same time, the monochrome color infuses the metal fragments with an amorphous vitality and physical presence, evoking an illusion of lightness, which counterbalances the actual physical weight of the material.
The unpretentious and modest vocabulary of Meuser’s more geometric body of work has a constructivist formal clarity that is reminiscent to strategies of Minimal art, especially considering his specific use of materials. With his so-called “Knautsch” works (roughly translated from the German, it means “crumpled“), Meuser expanded this idiom and since 2011 he has developed works that are literally crumpled: i.e., squeezed, crushed, and bent. As a student of Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Meuser developed his abstract constructivist vocabulary particularity in the context of the work of older colleagues such as Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel, who—like Martin Kippenberger—had significant influence on his work. With Kippenberger he shared an ironic and down-to-earth approach to artmaking and he sometimes visited his friend to create titles for the works (“Titel kloppen”), just as one would slam cards on the table in a game of skat.
Ultimately, with his specific handling and installation of the works, but especially with his idiosyncratic titles, Meuser ironically transfers his materials into an everyday world oscillating between banality and poetry. Meuser’s hilarious and disrespectful titles are inspired by the distinctively blunt and irreverent everyday rhetoric of the Ruhr valley, as well as popular songs (“Schlager”), proverbs, or jokes. These titles are found fragments just like the scrap metal, extracted from their original realm of meaning. They render the work as a self-referential whole composed of image and text and allow for new iconographic interpretations and various—sometimes anarchic—associations.
Magician Space is pleased to present its second solo exhibition with artist Wu Chen.
To better understand this artist, I would refer the audience back to his debut exhibition Matisse’s Skirt. The
relationship between each work was more of an echo than defined by repetition. For example, the lustful
swan featured in the 2013 work Leda Leda and the Swan makes another appearance in the painting Bad Man
Can Also End Up In Heaven, but this time as a swan that makes it to heaven after death.
The titles of the paintings within the exhibition go beyond simply being just mere names. They also
function to sublimate and extend the work’s meaning, becoming as important as the lines or color on the
canvas itself. A 2016 work, Figurative Portrait of Abstract Artist depicts Sean Scully in a dressing gown while
working - he looks both like a king or prisoner. The painting is both satirical and ironic, from its title
down to the painting of the scene. Faced with a composition produced using a mixture of different
methods of appropriation, it is perhaps best to view these paintings similarly to how one enjoys a ‘Mo Lei
Tau’ style comedy from a Stephen Chow film. A nude Santa Claus in a brothel, Bin Laden holding a swan
in his arms, and a baby-face Mondrian…
If you are familiar with either art history or the art world, looking at Wu Chen’s paintings can be
absorbing as they are interesting. He tampers, appropriates and mixes together work and artists found
deep within the annals of art history. As the art world becomes more like an underworld of gangsters, the
words of an artist are increasingly like coded messages comprehensible only to an inner circle. If you do
not happen to be as conversant with art history, this shouldn’t put you off either nor should you turn
away. A misreading always has been one other way of reading and often leads to the creation of
The skill found within a painting ought to be matched with expressions of ‘good painting’ and ‘bad
painting’ that are relative to the content. It is precisely here, where one can regard this point as the
pinnacle where form and content unify together well. Wu Chen has a habit of using acrylic to control the
coarseness of his brush stroke. He does this to alter, but also embellish as he paints - you cannot simply
wait on the joke as you might end up offending it.
Bad Man Can Also End Up in Heaven is also the title of this exhibition. This does not necessarily draw the
conclusion that good people therefore must go to hell. The font used for the exhibition title derives from
a calligraphy style used by Mao Zedong – the first character for ‘bad’ and the last character of the Chinese
word for ‘heaven’ have been rendered illegible. But there is no real need to worry regardless - you can
simply look at the sentence and read that ‘man reaches the sky’.
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