Los Angeles

Gordon Wagner

Silvan Simone Gallery

Too often elements employed in collage and assemblage seem to appear there solely with the inelegant excuse of availability. The large current show of the works of Gordon Wagner at the Silvan Simone Gallery demonstrates what should and can be accomplished through extensive consideration and intelligent selection when applied to these often outrageously misused idioms. It is easy to believe that veteran Gordon Wagner is blessed with an accumulation of debris staggering in size and scope and that he is intimately familiar with every sliver on hand. The sculptures range in complexity from the simple posing of some elegantly turned and polished wood forms, “Americana,” to intricate compositions that invite the most methodical inspection, as “Night Clerk at the Savoy.”

However involved the pieces become, obvious attention is paid to the blending of weathered colorations with sporadic introduction of texture and pattern. all firmly built on stable forms. The vocabulary of junk employed by Wagner defies inventory. So quickly identifiable with prior functions are they that whether whole or fragmentary, the elements get top billing—the totality is secondary. This is not necessarily an adverse attitude for it is through analysis of the parts that full statements appear. In this case, Wagner emphasizes the pagan mysticism enduring in Mexican Catholicism. Mixing Gothic romanticism with a macabre racial affection for death images and self-torture. Wagner manages to identify his Central American neighbors with an authority rarely attained when attempting narrative through the means selected here. In spite of their fascination. one fact must remain—though yesterday’s rubbish may be temporarily disguised as today’s art through judicious arrangements, lifted from their shaky new environment the bits and trinkets promptly revert to the grave. Ars longa, vita brevis.

Curt Opliger