Rodney Graham Vignettes of Life

12 June – 30 July 2011, Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Hubertus Exhibitions

Opening: Saturday 11 June 6 – 8 pm

Hauser & Wirth Zürich is delighted to present an exhibition of major new works, including three lightboxes and one film, by the Canadian artist Rodney Graham. Graham’s art examines the complexities of Western culture through strategies of disguise and quotation. Casting himself as a succession of motley characters, Graham inhabits different personae, genres and art forms, working with diverse media such as film, photography, installation, painting, music and text. ‘It may be a burden to reinvent oneself every time,’ Graham has said, ‘but it makes things more interesting’.

The exhibition features new monumental lightboxes ‘The Leaping Hermit’, ‘The Avid Reader’ and ‘Basement Camera Shop circa 1937’. ‘The Leaping Hermit’ presents an intricately detailed scene, showing Graham bearded and bedraggled, a free-spirited Bohemian caught in mid-jump as though joyfully experiencing a revelation from above. The three-part format of the work evokes medieval triptych painting. Its garden landscape and composition loosely recalls Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’, while the pose of the hermit seems to borrow from Matthias Grünewald’s resurrected Christ. Yet despite the biblical associations alluded to, like many of Graham’s works, the image defies interpretation, its subject unknown to religious mythology.

‘The Avid Reader’ shows the artist in the role of rapt slacker absorbed in something we cannot see. The lightbox recreates the shopfront of a closed (or maybe re-opening) Woolworths in 1949, its windows covered with newspapers dating from 1945. Graham, playing the part of the avid reader, stands in front of the shop, transfixed by the headlines in the newspapers. To create the image, Graham first had to fabricate a street and then perform within it, making a situation familiar to us through a history peculiarly his own.

The third lightbox, ‘Basement Camera Shop circa 1937’ is a reconstruction of a snapshot from the 1930s. The snapshot, which Graham first saw in an antique store, shows a photolab in Dauphin, Manitoba. Graham examined the photo very closely, using the information carried in the small black and white contact print to create a work about the early development of snapshot photography.

Graham’s film ‘The Green Cinematograph (Programme 1: Pipe smoker and overflowing sink)’ tests the Kuleshov Effect, an editing technique that makes the viewer create a connection between two unrelated scenes. Shown using an old cinematograph, it cuts between images of Graham smoking a pipe and bubbles filling and spilling from a sink, the elusive meanings and sculptural forms of smoke and foam implicating one another.