New York

Jean-Luc Moulène, Hump Hand (Paris, 2017), concrete, 11 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 1/2".

Jean-Luc Moulène, Hump Hand (Paris, 2017), concrete, 11 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 1/2".

Jean-Luc Moulène

Miguel Abreu Gallery | Eldridge Street

Jean-Luc Moulène, Hump Hand (Paris, 2017), concrete, 11 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 4 1/2".

The work of the erudite, Sorbonne-trained French photographer-sculptor Jean-Luc Moulène can seem to be machinated by an artist more interested in theory than practice. Yet this sprawling, diverse show full of tenderly handcrafted objects revealed a profound joy in making.

For his second solo show at Miguel Abreu Gallery, Moulène presented eighteen new, midsize pieces in the venue’s main gallery, in addition to two earlier works on view in a smaller space a few streets south, both of which had been recently exhibited at the artist’s 2016 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. While his 2016 presentation emphasized the continuous surfaces of mathematical knots (as evidenced by his 1995– series “Opus”), this new work instead showcased a multitude of holes, as made explicit by the grouping’s title, “Hole, Bubble, Bump.” The sculptures in Abreu’s larger gallery, which demonstrated the artist’s continued interest in the visual tension created by facing off voluptuously organic and dryly geometric forms, were replete with cavities. Holes were immediately apparent in two bronze casts—the supplicant female nude Josephine (Paris 2017) (all works 2017) and the fragmented face cast Masque (Marc Gilbert) (Paris 2017), which was mounted on its support like a severed head on a pike. The irregular abscesses in what would have been uniform casings mapping the surfaces of the human form were the result, per the artist, of information missing from the three-dimensional scans used to cast them. By contrast, the ceramic works Campecino II (San Rafael & Tlatepaque, Mexico 2017) and Torso Azúl—and the works of printed Lycra stretched over wood armatures, Caisse à Souffe (Moire Machine/Main) (Paris, 2017) and Caisse à Vents (Moire Machine/Main) (Paris, 2017)—were hollow by design. The nearby Fixed Standard (Paris, 2017) demonstrated amputation and suture: Its plastic lawn chair readymade was cut down the middle, and the missing arm was supplemented by a provisional cardboard frame. Meanwhile, bubbles and bumps were present in Rubber Boot (Paris, 2017), an incised and resin-dipped rubber boot with balloon pustules appearing to pop from its sides and top, and Hump Hand (Paris, 2017), a concrete cast of a glove with lumpy growths. Indeed, all of the works in this eclectic show revealed themselves to be united by a shared preoccupation with its three titular forms.

Moulène describes himself as a technicien libertaire, and he certainly takes liberties with his materials. “Hole, Bubble, Bump” evidenced a studio practice marked by spontaneity and a penchant for experimentation, as well as the artist’s confidence in his ability to create without hewing to preconceived ideas of what the works needed to look like or be “about.” As the artist states in the press release, he became aware of their unifying theme only after he had finished them. One wished, however, that he had provided slightly fewer justifications after the fact; the artist cites Gilles Deleuze’s body without organs and explains that his interest in bodies riddled with holes is (among other things) born of a desire to update this theoretical concept. Moulène frequently draws on a vast array of concepts from the high reaches of philosophy and theoretical mathematics in generating his work. But this show, at least, was perhaps better enjoyed without them.

Cat Kron