Rodney Graham

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Rodney Graham
Public art.jpg
park's public art - "Aerodynamic Forms in Space" by Rodney Graham
Born William Rodney Graham
(1949-01-16) January 16, 1949 (age 65)
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Education University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Known for Film, video art, photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation art
Notable work(s) Vexation Island (1997)
Movement Vancouver School

Rodney Graham (born January 16, 1949) is an artist and musician born in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He is most often associated with the Vancouver School. He is married to the artist Shannon Oksanen and lives in Vancouver.

Work[edit]

Coming out of Vancouver's 1970s photoconceptual tradition, Rodney Graham's work is often informed by historical literary, musical, philosophical and popular references. He is most often associated with other West-coast Canadian artists, including Vikky Alexander, Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas, Roy Arden and Ken Lum. He was taught by fellow Vancouver school artist Ian Wallace[citation needed]'while at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, from 1979 to 1980. Around this time, he played in the band UJ3RK5 with fellow artist Jeff Wall. His wide-ranging and often unclassifiable work has frequently engaged with technologies of the past: literary, psychological and musical texts, optical devices, and film as historical medium.

Among his earliest works is Camera Obscura (1979; destroyed 1981) a site-specific work that consisted of a shed-sized optical device on his family's farm field near Abbotsford, British Columbia. Entering the shed, the observer was confronted with an inverted image of a solitary tree.[1] Both prior to this (with Rome Ruins [1978])[2] and throughout the 1980s and 90s, Graham employed the technique of the camera obscura in his work.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Graham took found texts as the basis for his bookworks—at once conceptual and material—inserting bookmarks with additional pages, inserting textual loops or incorporating books into optical devices in works such as Dr. No* (1991), Lenz (1983) and Reading Machine for Lenz (1993), respectively; many of these were carried out with the esteemed Belgian publisher Yves Gevaert and/or the gallerist Christine Burgin. His extensive body of works related to Sigmund Freud (beginning in 1983) in a sense develops out of this text-based practice, though later found books would be integrated unmodified into Donald Judd-like “specific objects,” as with The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud (1987).

Until 1997, when he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale with the film loop Vexation Island, Graham was most well known for his series of photographs of Welsh oaks seen upside-down.[3] For this project, he employed a photographer to take monochrome pictures of majestic, isolated trees in the English countryside[4] with a large-format camera. He then hung the black-and-white pictures upside down, like camera obscura images.[5] In 1998 Graham produced his definitive work on this theme, a series of seven monumental images of Welsh oaks printed on color paper to produce warm deep sepia and charcoal hues.[6]

A postage stamp depicting Graham's photograph, Basement Camera Shop circa 1937 was issued on March 22, 2013 by Canada Post as part of their Canadian Photography series. The image is a recreation of a snapshot discovered by the artist at an antique store. Graham places himself in the photograph as the owner standing at the counter, waiting for a customer.[7][8][9]

Film[edit]

In 1994, Graham began a series of films and videos in which he himself appears as the principal character: Halcion Sleep (1994), Vexation Island (1997) (shown at Canadian pavilion of the 1997 Venice Biennale), How I Became a Ramblin' Man (1999), and The Phonokinetoscope (2002), for instance. It is in this last work that evidence of Graham's engagement both with the origins of cinema and its eventual demise surface, a work where Graham takes up a prototype by Thomas Edison and puts forward an argument for the relation between sound and image in film.

In Vexation Island (1997), a shipwrecked pirate, played by Graham, wakes up on a tropical island only to be knocked unconscious by a falling coconut that he has succeeded in shaking out of a palm tree; after a while he reawakens, returns to the tree and the cycle repeats.[10] Later, in Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 (2003), two increasingly obsolete technologies, the typewriter and film projector, face off against one another—with the latter projecting a film of the former.[11]

The film Lobbing Potatoes at a Gong (1969) (2006), shot on 16mm and presented as a looped projection, fictitiously documents a 1969 performance strongly reminiscent of the Fluxus movement. The artist, played by Graham, is shown sitting on a chair in the setting of an alternative cultural institution, with an audience watching him trying to hit a gong with potatoes. All the potatoes that actually hit the gong were subsequently used to produce vodka in a small still. The bottle is displayed in a showcase, both an end product and part of the work. As in many of Graham’s films, the relatively simple plot is in stark contrast to the effort that went into the production, with the artist conducting extensive research and hiring a professional film crew.[12]

Drawing and painting[edit]

In 2003, Graham turned to drawing and painting for the first time. Adopting a persona in a host of related photographic, installation and painted works, The Gifted Amateur, November 10th, 1962,[13] 2007, indicates both continuing performative and art historical directions in his work.

In 2009, Graham exhibited a series of film installations with Harun Farocki, called "HF/RG," at the Jeu de Paume, Paris. "HF | RG". Jeu de paume (in French). Retrieved 2009-04-06. 

Exhibitions[edit]

Graham's solo exhibitions include the Vancouver Art Gallery (2012); a retrospective at MACBA, Barcelona (2010), travelling to Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2004); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2005), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2002), and Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin (2001). The artist was included in documenta IX (1992), the Venice Biennale in 1997, the Whitney Biennial in 2006, and the Carnegie International in 2013.[14]

Graham is currently represented by 303 Gallery, New York; Christine Burgin Gallery, New York; Donald Young Gallery, Chicago; Lisson Gallery, London; Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London and New York; and Johnen Galerie, Berlin.

Recognition[edit]

Graham represented Canada at the 47th Venice Biennale (1997) and among awards he has received the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, Toronto (2004), the Kurt Schwitters-Preis, Niedersächsiche Sparkassenstiftung, Germany (2006) and the Audain Prize for lifetime achievement in visual arts, British Columbia (2011).[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wall, "Into the Forest: Two Sketches for Studies of Rodney Graham's Work," 21.
  2. ^ Graham, "Artist's Notes," in Rodney Graham: Works from 1976 to 1994. Toronto; Brussels; Chicago: Art Gallery of York University; Yves Gevaert; The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 1994. 83.
  3. ^ Apollinaire Schepp (September 16, 2001), Taking a Trip by Bicycle New York Times.
  4. ^ Rodney Graham, Welsh Oaks #1 (1998) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  5. ^ Ken Johnson (November 4, 2005), A Mercurial Conceptualist Who Remains an Enigma New York Times.
  6. ^ Rodney Graham, Welsh Oaks #1 (1998) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  7. ^ "New photography stamp series gives an appreciation of Canada’s best". Canada Post. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Canadian Photography". Canada Post. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Griffin, Kevin (June 8, 2012). "Art Seen: Rodney Graham: Humour, Canadian-style" (blog). The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Ken Johnson (November 4, 2005), A Mercurial Conceptualist Who Remains an Enigma New York Times.
  11. ^ "Rheinmetall/Victoria 8". The Collection. The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  12. ^ Rodney Graham: Renaissance Man. Works 1400–1977, October 21 – December 22, 2006, Hauser & Wirth Zürich Hauser & Wirth, Zürich.
  13. ^ "Rodney Graham". 303Gallery. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  14. ^ Rodney Graham: The Four Seasons, November 2 – December 21, 2013 Hauser & Wirth, Zürich.
  15. ^ Rodney Graham Lisson Gallery, London/Milan.

External links[edit]