Dan Wolgers

Lars Bohman Gallery

The farewell to our romantic/Modernist heritage has been a protracted affair, and seldom has this heritage been more radically questioned than by Dan Wolgers. The manifestation of Wolger’s work can be summed up in one word: absence. Absence of author, artwork, authenticity, signature, expression, fervor, truth, emotions, esthetic will, and personal style: generally speaking, an absence of all those values that traditionally have been associated with the artist, the work, and the relationship between them.

Marcel Duchamp exhibited his bottle rack and “fountain.” Jeff Koons never lays a hand on his works. And the only thing Mark Kostabi does nowadays is sign the paintings his employees paint for him. Bot both Koons and Kostabi give instructions as to how their works should look and be constructed. And as for Duchamp, he picked out his readymades himself. He even signed the urinal—albeit not with his own name. Compared to Wolgers, all these artists appear decidedly personal. Wolgers, in fact, carries the rebellion against our romantic heritage to its utmost, logical endpoint. He combines Conceptualism’s dematerialization of art with a complete nonparticipation in the exhibition’s content and design, by ordering the whole show from an advertising agency. The agency was given completely free reign to make the “artworks” and to install them. No instructions were given, except “Make me a show.” Wolgers decided to appear at the opening, knowing no more beforehand than the rest of the audience. Once the order had been placed, every cord between him and this “test-tube exhibition” was cut. The result actually looked pretty much like an art exhibition. Flat, colored, and framed things; serial objects and a mobile “sculpture” presented along with one wall of 77 identical plates, each covered with a photographic portrait of top model Linda Evangelista. An intensely red “painting,” in a carved yellow frame, displayed Wolgers’ signature written in the trademark style of Walt Disney. Everything, of course, exists in simulation and functions as a kind of visual Muzak.

Cynicism? The total bankruptcy of art? In my view, neither. There is a playfulness about everything that Wolgers does; this justifies calling him a deliberate buffoon who delivers a “plebeian” gibe at all the shallow and hypocritical talk about “the death of the author.” Wolgers is the jester at the court of art. And, before this court, he holds up a not-too-flattering mirror. An action like this cannot be repeated. Should Wolgers attempt to repeat it, then I would be prepared to call him a cynic. Not by means of strict and pompous logic but by means of a cunning grimace, he performs a kind of reduction ad absurdum. This does not mean art is bankrupt, for it would be bankrupt only if art did not have other paths to follow. But those we know it has. Or do we?

Lars O. Ericsson