Dan Graham A Show for all the Children

27 October – 22 December 2001, Hauser & Wirth Zürich

Dan Graham (born in 1942, lives and works in New York) is one of the most important American artists of his generation. Currently a comprehensive retrospective of his work underlines his significance for the development of conceptual art and his influence on the video and performance art in the last thirty years. Having been shown at the Museu d’Arte Contemporanêa de Serralves in Porto and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, the exhibition will travel to the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo in November and will be shown in the KIASMA in Helsinki next year.

“A show for all the children” is the title Dan Graham has chosen for his exhibition at the Galerie Hauser & Wirth. The presentation centres around his new pavilion “Girl’s Make-up Room”, which is related to projects that were created for the 1997 Sculpture Exhibition in Münster. The room, composed of two-way mirror glass with sliding doors made of perforated steel is, like many of Dan Graham’s works, a hybrid between a quasi-functional space and an installation that serves to expose processes of perception and certain expectations. Visitors are asked to enter the room and use make-up at a little table. But they soon realise that neither the little make-up mirror nor the walls of the pavilion will allow them to apply a perfect make-up: The two-way mirror walls only produce a distorted reflection. And this only, when it is not entirely transparent due to the reflected day light. The little mirror, which can be attached anywhere on the steel walls by means of a magnet, has a fish-eye lens on it, which also gives only a distorted reflection of the visitor’s face.
The perforated steel walls are continuously producing changing ray patterns. Combined with the semi-mirrored glass these ray patterns create a virtual world that is changing with the light and is thus in a state of permanent flux. The visitor has access to this world and is at the same time both an observer and an object of observation. In addition, the title of the pavilion questions the children cult in our society – does a little girl really need her own make-up room?

Part of the exhibition is also a new video entitled “Six Sculptures/Pavilions for Pleasure” that Graham created in collaboration with the Galerie Hauser & Wirth. It documents six different pavilions by Dan Graham that are in public places and have different functions. This title also refers to the ambiguous nature of the pavilions – they are at once sculptures and places of pleasure.

Further projects are represented by three new models, such as the “S-Curve”, which was realised this year as a permanent installation in the courtyard of the Hauser & Wirth Collection in St. Gall and is used as a café.

Dan Graham’s photographic work deals recurrently with the culture of everyday life and architecture. Glimpses of private life are combined with images of housing architecture, thus creating new perspectives.

“Please enter!” reads the sign next to the “Girl’s Make-up Room” – Dan Graham asks visitors to “enter” his work, to appropriate it. It is important for him that we become a part of his work. Graham’s works are situated at the interface between architecture and everyday culture, they confront us with our clichéd perceptions and behavioural patterns. In the truest sense of the word he holds up a mirror to our consciousness. And the reflection does not always live up to our expectations.