Mans Wrange

Galleri Sten Eriksson

Both hot and cool, passionate and skeptical, sensuous and conceptual, Mans Wrange’s work creates an intense feeling of ambivalence and ambiguity. His installations include a mixture of short narratives. In his new one, Wrange introduces three fictional characters, all of them obsessed by a romantic longing for perfection, immediacy, or truth. But in one way or another, they all fail. Wrange is not, however, simply playful and ironic regarding his characters and their noble aspirations. Like any good author, he also seems to be genuinely fascinated by them. His texts, pictures, and objects, in fact, exhibit a kind of exactitude which, I think intentionally, undermines their skepticism. Wrange is a disbeliever who believes in the necessity of belief.

The fictional poet Morecraft (more-craft!) dreams of a poetry that can be read in a single moment. But his “instant poems”—written with red ink—are, instead, looked upon as calligraphic drawings. (He later comes to be regarded by art historians as a forerunner of Abstract Expressionism!) The gap between intention and execution is never bridged. The absolute poetic presence remains but a dream. The iconoclast Ricardolini is driven by his Platonic worship of truth to deliver humanity from the illusions of art by destroying as many artworks as possible. But because of the attention paid to his activities by the media, each original destroyed is replaced by innumerable reproductions. The world of art turns out to be a hydra, an Augean stable that resists any herculean efforts to clean it up. Wrange suggests an ironic critique of the Bilderstreiten (picture battles) of the last few decades, acknowledging that whatever strategy has been used against pictures in recent times, it has always resulted in more pictures. Wrange’s third alter ego is the painter Mr. X, who realizes that he won’t be able to paint the Great Masterpiece. Instead he collects the works of old masters, locking them up into “extra strong boxes” (one of which is on display in the show), boxes that look like something in between a safe, an aquarium, and a jail. Here the irony is perhaps too easily read.

In another part of the installation, called The Melted Monuments, 1989, art is linked to a kind of ineffability, to an impossibility of revealing the innermost truth, the terrible secret. When the unknown is to be disclosed, the bronze tablet carrying its inscription melts and becomes unreadable. Its meaning resides in its resistance to announce its meaning. Throughout the installation, Wrange’s work resembles Chinese boxes, where different levels of interpretation—material, theoretical, visual, and poetic—intertwine in an intricate and fascinating way. The individual pieces are as sharp in regard to detail as they are open-ended when it comes to possible readings.

Lars O. Ericsson