Allan Graham, who sometimes uses the name Toadhouse, (born 1943 in San Francisco, California) is a contemporary American artist based in New Mexico. His work includes sculpture, painting, poetry, and video.
Graham studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Jose State University before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico (1967).
His early paintings were wall-like grids which, in the mid to late 1970s, developed into more open compositions with sweeping arcs and herring-bone patterns.
In 1983, he abandoned conventionally shaped canvases in favor of eccentric forms and began leaving the stretcher bars exposed. By the mid-80’s this had evolved into a series of painting-sculpture hybrids, using wood, canvas, newspaper and book pages, which resembled certain African works. These were followed by near-monochromes on bent canvasses, sculptures made of books and irregularly circular paintings using book pages from sources such as a Navajo Bible and Dante's Inferno.
In the 90's, he painted a series called "Cave of Generation", which consisted of steps leading into large monochrome and two-tone paintings. These were followed by a series titled "Pre-hung (for those who suffer form)" which consisted of single and double doors painted with a palette knife.
In 1990 his work began to appear under the pseudonym of Toadhouse, which came from an underground structure he and his son built in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which attracted toads. The works under the Toadhouse name are word based. In one series he pasted bumper stickers with haiku like slogans on re-chromed car bumpers. In his Cosmo-logical and UFO series, he used tiny words written in graphite.
I think what goes on in your work is this incredible compression that we have to unpack, and, as we unpack it, we have to deal with our own sense of what these words mean to us or how they have some aspect of our habit of thinking, and then maybe take it apart a little.
In addition to physical artwork, two books of Toadhouse poems have been published: Shit Floats Life Goes On (Toadhouse, 1990) and Visual Eyes, Translations from Toadhouse (Ethan J. Wagner, San Francisco, 1991). His poems have also appeared in In Company, an anthology of New Mexico poets after 1960 (University of New Mexico Press, 2004).
Graham has been influenced by Zen Buddhism and Buddhist poetry. A large installation piece titled Time is Memory, which appeared in SITE Sante Fe, included sixteen zafus in front of which were placed famous Buddhist death poems. He has also cited Robert Creeley as an influence. The latter was also part of a video, poetry, photo installation project called “Add-Verse” which he did in conjunction with artist Gloria Graham.
Public collections holding work
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
- Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza, Varese, Italy
- Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto, Italy
- Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano, Svizzera
- Fisher Landau Center, Long Island City, New York
- High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
- Museum of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico
- University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, NM
- Sheldon Memorial Art Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln Nebraska
- Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado
- Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, New Mexico
- Toadhouse, 2001
- As REAL as thinking, 2000
- Panza di Biumo, The Eighties and the Nineties From the Collection, 1992
- Tucson Weekly, October 11, 2001
- The Brooklyn Rail, December 2007
- Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano: Allan Graham
- Artist's website
- "Add-Verse" a poetry, photo and video project done in conjunction with artist Gloria Graham
- Interview with Graham at the Brookly Rail