Car tyres and metal grids, bicycle wheels and drawers: this is the detritus of East LA, salvaged from offhand discard and made newly functional and aesthetic in Phil Wagner’s three-dimensional assemblages. Following a long tradition of artists who source materials from the street, Wagner transforms his finds into highly formal artworks, rich with allusions to painting as well as to such modern-art masters as Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Beuys, but executed with Wagner’s singular vision.
Evoking the degradation of an object that has been through the wringer of consumer culture, Wagner has said, “Found objects have a soul and depth that cannot be fabricated and reproduced, and if used wisely can give a work personality and character.”
At a certain point, however, Wagner found the streets wanting and returned to his studio. Relying on the material vocabulary readily at hand – steel, spray paint, plywood, stuffs of the neighbourhood – Wagner turned his energies toward invention, crumpling bits of steel into complex compositions, some painted glossy and off-white, while others bear the urgent marks of spray paint. Wagner’s work indulges in sumptuous tensions between trash and prized object, hi and lo culture as well as painting and sculpture, creating exciting visual feasts that affirm their own unique identities within the history of painting and assemblage.
Phil Wagner was born in 1974 in East Moline, Illinois and currently lives and works in Los Angles, California. Solo exhibitions include With Love, UNTITLED, New York, New York (2012), Voilá, Parker Jones Gallery, Los Angeles, California (2011) and Gracias, UNTITLED, New York, New York (2010). He has been included in a number of group exhibition in the United States and Europe, most notably, Into the Surface, Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy (2012), American Exuberance, Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, Florida (2011) and Jessica Dickson, Oscar Murillo, Cammie Staros and Phil Wagner, Mihai Nicodem, Culver City, California (2011).