French artist Jean-Luc Moulène reveals the invisible systems that order our world through an enigmatic mix of handmade objects, photographs, and installations.Read More
Moulène was born in Reims, France. He began studying at l'École des Beaux-Arts in Versailles in 1972, where he became friends with Michel Journiac, an artist who introduced him to the Art Corporel movement. Moulène received his BA in Literature in 1978 and his MA in Arts Teaching in 1979, both from the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.
Since the 1980s, Jean-Luc Moulène's work has addressed issues around authorship, transaction, and autonomy, spanning parallel practices of photography and object-based installation.
The works within Moulène's 'Disjonctions' (Disjunctions) series (1984–1995) are ambiguously connected and difficult to interpret. Moulène takes on the role of a flaneur, or a botanist collecting samples in a taxonomy of photographic genres. He has described 'Disjonctions' as 'decalibrating', whereby the recognisable genres of their seemingly banal contents—portraits, nudes, gardens, urban landscapes—are displaced through a careful negation of the artist's control. What emerges instead is the omnipresence of subtle signifiers that communicate the social norms, political controls, and restrictions of movement that underly these settings, including police signs, advertising, and traffic lights.
Moulène is well-known for his large-format photographic series 'Documents' (1989–ongoing) that often broaches politically sensitive subjects. The series chronicles the following subcategories: 'Objets de Grève', products made by French industrial workers on strike; 'Produits de Palestine', products exported from occupied Palestine; 'La Vigie', an invasive urban plant species; 'La Louvre', tourist statuettes from the Louvre; and 'Fénautrigues', Moulène's family's hometown. Photography becomes both a first-person narrative and a research tool, employed by Moulène to record and preserve the socio-political texture of labour struggles. In turn, Moulène emphasises the imbalanced power dynamic of art-making itself, to which the artist turns his critical eye in his object-based series.
Systems and orders of material production are explored in Moulène's 'Opus' series, an ongoing collection of three-dimensional objects begun in 1995. Its cumulative nature spans a wide variety of content, comprised of tabletop, hanging, and floor-bound constructions that are arranged within an ambiguous ontological order—like Moulène's photography. Materials include glass, bronze, fiberglass, tobacco, plastic, plaster, wood, and bone, amongst others.
In Arthur, Paris, August 2010 (2010), the top of a human skull protrudes from cast concrete, while Mi-tronche (Nonosse) (Half-mug [Bobone]), Paris, September 2010 (2010) reveals a child's skull similarly encased.
The macabre is dropped in Model for Sharing, Paris, December 2007 (2007), a scrappily put-together architectural model, and in Moulène's knot sub-series, whose objects engage the mathematics of knot theory. Loops of coloured glass in Blown Knot 63 2, Borromean, Varia 03 (CIRVA, Marseille, 2012) (2012) fuse into a tangle, while in For Birds 1 and 2 (2012), a glass balloon tentatively bubbles out of the open door of paired birdcages, the rest perfectly fitted inside.
Broadly, Moulène's object-based work suggests the complex, elaborate material binds between matter, as well as the social and historical connections that we project onto objects. The 'Opus' collection follows his photographic research, embodying the hidden systems of production that generate these things.
Jean-Luc Moulène has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions internationally. Select solo exhibitions have been held at Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris (2020); SculptureCenter, New York (2019); Secession, Vienna (2017); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2016); Villa Medici, Rome (2015); Kunstverein, Hannover (2015); Beirut Art Center (2013); Modern Art Oxford (2012); Dia:Chelsea, New York (2012); Carré d'art – Musée d'art contemporain, Nîmes (2010); Centre d'art Passerelle, Brest (2008); and Musée du Louvre, Paris (2005). He will have a solo show at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart in 2023.
Select group exhibitions the artist has been included in have been held at Drawing Room, London (2021); Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (2020); MAC VAL, Vitry-sur-Seine (2020); MoMa PS1, New York (2019); Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), Rome (2019); Venice Biennale (2019); SMAK, Ghent (2018); Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2018); Guggenheim Bilbao Museum (2017); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2017); and WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2017).
Moulène's work has been acquired by major collections worldwide, including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Tate Modern, London; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; Carré d'art, Nîmes; MAC VAL, Vitry-sur-Seine; Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris; Sharjah Art Foundation; Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP), Paris; FRAC Ile de France — Le Plateau, Paris; and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.
Peter Derksen | Ocula | 2022