Johan Muyle

Galerie Ascan Crone

This exhibition of Johan Muyle’s rotating, blinking, and tinkling works would have fascinated and entertained children. Between the individual works stuffed animals tumbled about, giving the entire scene a macabre atmosphere. A monkey surrounded by ivy extended his arm to beg; two Pomeranians played with each other in a baby carriage. Each work seemed to transport the viewer back to a time of individual mythologies and surrealistic games. A strange combination of devotional objects, sawed-up furniture, and tin cans created this time warp, which, with its tendency toward private mysticism, harkened back to the early ’70s.

Muyle brings objects together that don’t seem to belong together, yet they grow together and fuse. Despite this, some of the works have no inner cohesiveness. In Musizierende Gesellschaft (Musical society, 1990), a chair with sawed-off legs on a table with one-half of a clay figure on it, followed by a wire structure and a vase, revealed a near-annihilation of the constituent materials. Additionally the wire structure was heated by electricity, and the warm air it created caused a propeller above the work to rotate. Other works—mostly small devotional statues—also had propellers, still others revealed their mechanical inner life with rotating wheels or slowly turning cylinders. Titles such as Madonne (Madonna, 1990), Enfers (Hell, 1990), Le second Martyre de la Pietà (The second martyrdom of the Pietà, 1987) pun with religion, adding yet another level of speculation to these works.

Entering the gallery, you were greeted by a life-size wax figure. In his hand the figure was pulling a small car with a camera in it, painted upward. It would best be used for shots from underneath. These shots would look up skirts, so to speak, and announce an art that is neither ponderous nor all too serious.

Wolf Jahn

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.