Dan Graham
More of the Same

Past Exhibition 5 Apr – 17 May 2008 Zürich


Dan Graham’s pavilions are hybrid structures, operating simultaneously as functional spaces and as sculptural objects. His multi-faceted practice has long overridden the standard divisions that separate different disciplines, using text, photography and three-dimensional form to appropriate and intervene in the fabric of the common-place. Self-irony and anarchic humour are allied to utopian aspiration in Graham’s art, which simultaneously straddles parody and pragmatic invention.

At Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Graham will be showing two new outdoor pavilions, designed especially for the exhibition, with two architectural models of existing pavilions and a series of photographs. The pavilions have been a recurring idiom in Graham’s work since he realised ‘Two Adjacent Pavilions’ for Documenta 7 in 1982, and grew out of an insistence upon the importance of context: ‘The origin of my pavilions dates to the time when I first saw Minimal art installed as outdoor public sculpture. It looked so stupid. I wondered how you could deal with putting a quasi-Minimal object outside, and also wondered how these things could be entered into and seen from both inside and outside.’ His solution emphasises the dialectic between the city and nature, the modern and the arcadian. Drawing upon a rich tradition of outdoor structures – the ‘rustic hut’, the nineteenth century gazebo, the temporary buildings built by de Stijl and by Modern architects for expositions, Graham’s pavilions none the less use the materials of contemporary urban architecture – mirror-glass, sliding doors, perforated stainless steel and aluminium.

The pavilions operate as functional structures intended to instigate encounters between people, and their smooth seductive forms are designed to both facilitate and frame a range of shifting social interactions. They make evident both the spectator’s subjectivity and the perceptual process involved in the work’s functioning. Seen within the gallery, the sculptural qualities of each unique pavilion comes to the fore; in the outside world they effect relationships, reflecting and connecting passers by, the surrounding environment, and unpredictable instant time.

In Graham’s photographs, art’s relationship to its social context is even more at issue. Seminal images that he made in the sixties using a cheap Instamatic camera are shown along with seven new pictures and it is difficult to tell them apart. The original images featured in an article Graham published in Arts Magazine’s December 1966 – January 1967 issue, which parodied the neutral tone of journalistic reportage and through its disposability undermined the value expectations of art: ‘the idea was that you could produce everything yourself, everything was disposable and art should have no value. That was the utopian idea.’ Intentionally banal, they emphasise the serial repetition of New Jersey’s suburban streets, and by extension, the relatedness of the Minimalist grid to a real social situation.

Graham (born in Illinois in 1942, lives and works in New York) is one of the most important American artists of his generation. He first emerged in the 1960s alongside artists such as Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt and was one of the most influential pioneers of Conceptual Art. Graham’s work has featured in four Documentas (1972, 1977, 1982 and 1992) and has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. ‘Rectangle Inside Three/Quarter Cylinder’, a specially made pavilion, can be seen in June at Messeplatz, Basel as part of this year’s Art Basel fair. A major touring retrospective of Graham’s work opens at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in February 2009 and travels to the Whitney Museum and the Walker Art Center.

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