Dan Graham: Beyond, a major retrospective surveying the career of one of contemporary arts most innovative figures, will be on view at the Walker Art Center
October 31, 2009January 24, 2010. The first exhibition in the United States to showcase Grahams entire body of work, including his groundbreaking experiments with video and performance, architecture and public spaces, and collaborations with musicians and rock bands, is organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Curated by Bennett Simpson, MOCA associate curator, and Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz curator at the Whitney, this comprehensive survey features photographs, film and video, architectural models, indoor and outdoor pavilions, conceptual projects for magazine pages, drawings and prints, and writings.
The Walkers presentation of this acclaimed traveling exhibition continues the institutions extensive history with Graham. In addition to the commission Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth (1994) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and 10 other works in the Walkers collection, the artists work has been essential to major exhibitions such as Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes (2008), The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 19601982 (20032004), American Tableaux (20012002), and Lets Entertain (2000).
Dan Graham: Beyond traces the evolution of Grahams work across each of its major stages, while asserting the motifs and concerns that underlie his entire practicemost notably, the changing relationship of individual to society as filtered through American mass media and architecture at the end of the 20th century.
Graham was born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1942 and grew up in suburban New Jersey, a landscape that would serve as the inspiration for one of his earliest projects, Homes for America (19661967). While riding the train back to his parents house from New York City, Graham took numerous photographs of the tract housing he passed through, using a Kodak Instamatic camera.
Highlighting the repetition, mass production, and reductive logic of this landscape, these images echoed many of the central concerns of minimalism and led Graham to conceive of his work as a structure of information. Presented as a slide show as well as a magazine layout incorporating text, Homes for America is considered one of the seminal artworks of the 1960s. It announced a conception of art grounded in the everydayin common architecture, in the language of advertising, and made with cheap, disposable tools for mass circulationand it merged Grahams interest in cultural commentary with arts most advanced visual modes. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Graham was also at the forefront of a move by many cutting-edge artists into performance, film, and video works as a means of resituating the individual body within the political terms of conceptual art. In 1969, he commenced a series of time-based works, first in film and performance, later in video, that were inspired by the perceptual conditionsfeedback, looping, delayaccompanying these new modes of art experience. The most culturally profound invention of the postwar era, television, had made an enormous impact on Grahams generation, and at the heart of his new work was an investigation of the performer-audience relationship as it was filtered and distorted by the technology of the camera. In the dizzying, counter-intuitive vantages of films like Roll (1970) and Body Press (19701972), Graham second-guessed the supposed objectivity of the camera by giving the device to actors who performed simple reductive movements (rolling across the floor, circling one another).
At the same time, Graham was closely involved with underground music, writing a series of free-ranging, yet historically rigorous speculations on bands like the Kinks, the Fall, and the Sex Pistols. The attempt by youth culture to shake off social controlto get free from the ideological norms of postwar liferhymed easily with the artists own work in conceptual and media art. Rock My Religion (19821984) is an hour-long video-essay in which Graham traced a continuum between the Shakers, the early-American religious sect that sought spiritual transcendence through collective dance and song, and hardcore punk music. In the latters cathartic noise and social rites, Graham located an ongoing, if latent, spirit of separatism that has demarcated American culture from its origins. With its bracing footage of Patti Smith, Sonic Youth, and Black Flag mingled with historical images of a rapt Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker religion, the work is a classic of underground video and one of the most penetrating commentaries on American youth culture ever made.
For more than 40 years, Dan Graham has been at the center of the most vital revolutions in American art and culture. His works stand on their own terms, but they also read as complex analyses layered with critical reference, anarchistic humor, and an appeal to the broader culture. Resonating with a general attempt of the 1960s to leave the safety of high culture by going into the fieldwhether that of suburban sprawl, urban planning, or rock and rollGrahams art invites the engaged participation of the viewer and, at its core, attempts a physical and philosophical intervention in the public realm.
Dan Graham has had numeros solo exhibitions throughout North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia, including Dan Graham (1998), Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain; and Dan Graham: Works 19652000 (2001), a major retrospective organized by the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, Portugal. His group exhibitions have included Information (1970), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Documenta (1972, 1977, 1982, and 1992), Kassel, Germany; the Venice Biennale (1976 and 2003); the Whitney Biennial (1997 and 2005), New York; 19651975: Reconsidering the Object of Art (1995), The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA); A Minimal Future?: Art as Object 19581968 (2004), MOCA; and Open Systems: Rethinking Art c.1970 (2005), Tate Modern, London. Graham is also a widely published critical and cultural commentator. His essays and articlestouching widely on topics ranging from Gestalt psychology to Dean Martinconstitute one of the most prescient voices of the time and announced a mode of cultural observation influenced by French philosophy, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. Graham lives and works in New York.