The Red Brick Art Museum in Beijing to announce Dan Graham’s first solo exhibition in China at the Museum. As one of contemporary art’s most innovative and influential figures, Graham has been at the forefront of many of the most significant developments in art, including conceptual art, video and film installation, performance and site-specific sculpture. Often blurring the lines between private and public, inclusion and exclusion, Graham’s works have appeared in various arenas around the world, from museums and institutions to public gardens, shopping malls, coffee shops and magazines. Spanning five decades of the artist’s work, this comprehensive exhibition offers a complete overview of the artist’s practice and features over twenty new, recent and historical pieces.
Graham first began exploring issues of the performative, exhibitionism, voyeurism, mirroring and the mundane in the early 1960s and 1970s. As a means of reaching the widest possible audience, the placement of artwork as adverts in newspapers and magazines became Graham’s preferred method of dissemination during this period. On display in China for the first time as part of this exhibition, these magazine projects challenged the idea of value by reducing art to a mere advert and marked Graham’s entry point into conceptual art.
His visionary embrace of performance art is also captured in the exhibition through videos of early performances. Single-channel time-based works, like Lax/Relax (1969) and Performer / Audience / Mirror (1969/1995), focus on the ability of art to be both interactive and reflective, incorporating wall – size mirrors, video cameras and audience participation. These historical pieces represent the artist’s pioneering use of video to document perception and illustrate his interest in the semiotics of film. Works like Rock My Religion (1981) and the rock and roll puppet show Don’t Trust Anybody over 30 (2004) highlight the cultural importance of rock music and showcase Graham’s engagement with youth culture, as well as his innovative approach to cross-disciplinary collaboration. These works, which will be screened in their entirety in the museum, sample the artist’s favourite music from different periods of history while taking into account the broader social contexts of the time through a focus on religion and politics. Graham’s greatest hits, a music playlist he has been compiling for the past several years, will be available for visitors in a specially created room complete with soundproof booths and headphones.
The exhibition ‘Greatest Hits’ also presents Graham’s ongoing investigation into the relationship between architectural environments and their inhabitants through a direct engagement with the museum’s architecture, conceive d by Professor Dong Yugan of the Architecture Research Centre of Peking University. The red bricks used in the design of the building not only represent its foundational material but were also intended to encompass the history, tradition and tranquility of a Chinese garden, creating a hub of calmness in the middle of China’s bustling capital. In much the same way, Graham’s pavilions, for which he is perhaps best known, place special emphasis on space, time and the built environment, pointing to architecture’s ability to shift societal perceptions and experience. Bridging the gap between art and architecture, Graham’s pavilions are engineered out of steel, mirror and glass to create diverse optical effects. Created as hybrids and varying in size, from that of a bus shelter to a fashion runway, the pavilions operate as quasi-functional spaces that are activated by the presence of the viewer, as visitors are encouraged to walk through the sculpture and encounter reflections of themselves, others and the space around them. A newly commissioned pavilion and a number of models are featured in the exhibition. (This exhibition has been supported by Lisson Gallery and Greene Naftali.)
About the artist
For fifty years, Dan Graham has traced the symbiosis between architectural environments and their inhabitants. With a practice that encompasses curating, writing, performance, installation, video, photography and architecture, his analytical bent first came to attention with Homes for America (1966 – 67), a sequence of photos of suburban development in New Jersey, USA, accompanied by a text charting the economics of land use and the obsolescence of architecture and craftsmanship. Graham’s critical engagement manifests most alluringly in the glass and mirrored pavilions, which he has designed since the late 1970s and which have been realised in sites all over the world. These instruments of reflection – visual and cognitive – highlight the voyeuristic elements of design in the built world; poised between sculpture and architecture, they glean a sparseness from 1960s Minimalism, redolent of Graham’s emergence in New York in the 1960s alongside Sol Le Witt, Donald Judd and Robert Smithson. Graham himself has described his work and its various manifestations as ‘geometric forms inhabited and activated by the presence of the viewer, [producing] a sense of uneasiness and psychological alienation through a constant play between feelings of inclusion and exclusion.’’ The pavilions draw attention to building s as instruments of expression, psychological strongholds, markers of social change and prisms through which we view others and ourselves.
Dan Graham was born in Urbana, Illinois, USA in 1942 and lives and works in New York, USA. He has had solo exhibitions at the Columbus Museum of Art, OH, USA (22016); ETH Zurich, Switzerland (2015); Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2014); Kunstmuseum Sankt Gallen, St Gallen, Switzerland (2011); Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA (2009); Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy (2006); Museu Serralves, Porto,, Portugal (2001); Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK (1997); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (1993); Kunsthalle Berne, Bern, Switzerland (1983); and the Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA (1981). Graham has participated in dOCUMENTA 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10, Kassel, Germany (1972, 1977, 1982, 1992, 1997) and has shown work at the Venice Biennale, Italy (1976, 2003, 2005). Among numerous awards he received the Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award, Zurich, Switzerland (1992), the French Vermeil Medal, Paris, France (2001) and was honoured by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA in 2010.
About the exhibition
Dates: Nov 07, 2017 – Feb 25, 2018
Venue: The Red Brick Art Museum