René Wagner - Pole Position

02.04. - 29.05.2023

From 02.04. till 29.05. 2023, the exhibition "Pole Position" by René Wagner is on display at the Kasseler Kunstverein in its exhibition space at the Museum Fridericianum.
Cut by an approximately 3-meter-high exhibition wall, the exhibition space of the Kassel Kunstverein reveals a huge vehicle based on an exhibition architecture by Christopher Williams. As an imposing sculpture, it divides the adjacent wall and wedges itself into the neighboring space, standing in the way of the exhibition visitors like a wrongly parked car. The installation contains recesses in which illuminated exhibits can be seen, since Wagner resigns to show pedestal art in this exhibition. Therefore, his lacquered vases are screwed into the recessed niches lying down in a kind of exhaust-pipe aesthetic. The eye-catching rivets on the exhibition wall, normally found on Japanese car rims, were specially installed  for the show. Wagner therewith adapts appropriations from the Bosozoku Style Tunings and artfully prepared rims that seem to support the exhibition wall.
Paintings, made of sheet-thin aluminum with multiple layers of paint, are placed on the installation, as well as canvases that have been primed and painted several times in the manner of the old masters. However, through their bright colors, they much more recall the 90s hotwheels aesthetic.
By "pole position," Wagner means his own starting position as a chronicler and close observer. The tuning scene in the neighboring villages of his hometown of Hildesheim always have been a major fascination for him. Consequently, while waiting at the bus stop, Wagner captured thousands of car tunings with his camera.
In the passion and perseverance of the people who tune their cars and then present them in the evening in front of the bus stops outside the village, the artist sees a parallel with the art world, since in both world people are always looking out for the biggest, most beautiful and most successful work of art. Whether we look at the tuning scene in a barn or art in a studio, or the tuning scene in a parking lot versus art in an exhibition space. It somehow comes down to the same thing.
Wagner does not judge, but places obsessive attention and total perfection to every detail and the associated appreciation for the polished car on a high sheen levelling with his grandmother's Meissen porcelain, which was never allowed to be used and was displayed in the closet. People’s need to measure and optimize seems to be satisfied primarily with superficial surfaces polished to a high gloss.
This is why Wagner tries to combine these worlds in his Meissen porcelain-look aluminum rim, which he has painted in a corresponding pattern to boot.
His carefully painted objects reference antiquity, when scenes from life were depicted on utilitarian objects such as vases. What Wagner depicts today is taken primarily from the consumer world. His painted objects leave us with the uneasy feeling of having fallen for their superficiality and wanting to contradict the depiction because they torpedo the familiar.
René Wagner possibly reflects our need for so-called treasures, which we present in order to enhance ourselves in relation to others. As a visitor, we feel uneasy that our own admiration or need for sublimity can be attached to arbitrary objects and activities and may be ridiculous. Wagner simply mirrors our weird fascination for shiny surfaces, questioning our own actions and self-absorption.
If René Wagner has his way, pole position is not the starting place for a race, but the reflection of one's own attitude.

René Wagner (*1983) lives and works in Kassel.
He studied fine arts at the Kunsthochschule Kassel.