Liza Bruce Boutique Design, 1997
Drawing, collage and photography on paper
7 parts, each 34 x 25 cm
Over a period of more than four decades, Dan Graham has developed a diverse practice that refuses to be contained within the confines of contemporary art and instead aligns itself within popular culture. In his exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Zürich, ‘Rock n’ Roll Show. Unrealised Projects for Children and Boutique Architecture’, Graham will present drawings for two unrealised architectural projects: the ‘Liza Bruce Boutique’ and ‘The Children’s Pavilion’; the tongue-in-cheek photographic presentation ‘Eleven Sugar Cubes’ from 1970; new architectural models; and a new two-way mirror pavilion, created especially for the exhibition. Together, these works investigate the complex relationship between the art object and its viewer, providing a cross-section of the diversity of Graham’s practice and highlighting the artist’s unique interaction with his audience through his projects.
Graham’s pavilions move beyond the austerity of Minimalist sculpture and into the realm of the social environment. His pavilions have developed into technically complex, hybrid structures which function not only as an art object, but also as a meeting place in a crowded lobby, a powder room, or, in his new pavilion, a space for watching videos. Often consisting of a minimal structure enclosed by curved or angled walls, these pavilions are created from the materials of corporate architecture such as steel and mirrored glass. However, unlike the grandiose skyscrapers and ubiquitous curtain-wall office buildings, Graham’s pavilions are created on a more human scale. At Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Graham has created an indoor pavilion for viewing his favourite Rock n’ Roll films including ‘The Fall: Perverted by Language’, Ericka Beckman’s ’135 Grand Street New York’ and a video of his close friend and fellow artist Rodney Graham performing ‘Angel in the Morning’ with his band. Viewers of these films are invited to lounge on the floor, surrounded by a combination of reflective, yet transparent glass. The two-way mirrored glass allows the viewers watching the film to see themselves whilst visitors standing outside of the structure can observe the people lounging inside, implicating the spectator as part of the structure and reversing the roles of subject and object. This pavilion combines Graham’s diverse interests in architecture, perception and the ethos and communalism of the counter-cultures of rock and punk music.
Accompanying the pavilion will be drawings for Graham’s unrealised architectural projects including the ‘Liza Bruce Boutique’ and ‘The Children’s Pavilion’, designed in collaboration with artist Jeff Wall. Graham once said, ‘My work is for children and parents on weekends’ and, in an interview with Mark Francis, explained his proposed structure ‘The Children’s Pavilion’ as a pavilion for ‘adults wanting to be children’. Inspired by the caves at Lascaux, the interiors of theatres built during the French Enlightenment, planetariums and observatories, Graham’s drawings detail a grotto-like structure, accessible from the side and surrounded by tondos of children from all walks of life photographed against different skies. Like many of his pavilions, Graham experiments with optics in this design, utilising convex two-way mirrors, fish-eye lenses and a small pool of water to reflect the pavilion’s interior, including the tondos, the visitors and the sky outside the pavilion.
For the exhibition, Dan Graham has re-invented his work ‘Eleven Sugar Cubes’, which will be shown for the first time as a photographic installation. Following the closure of his Manhattan-based space, the John Daniels Gallery, in the late 1960s, Graham turned to magazines as the primary venue for his art. In addition to contributing art and music criticism, Graham created text and photographic pieces often published between the magazines’ advertisements. First printed in ‘Art in America’ in 1970, Graham’s ‘Eleven Sugar Cubes’ consisted of a two-page spread, featuring a grid of 24 colour photographs and an accompanying text written by Graham, explaining the sequence: ‘I dropped eleven sugar cubes in the sea, after soaking them in detergent, and photographed the results. The presentation constitutes the intended work of art, which was designed to be mass-produced in a publication’ (Dan Graham, 1970). By publishing this work in a mass-produced magazine, Graham further pushed the boundaries of the art object – boundaries that he would continue to bend and contort in his later works – firmly situating his practice, even at its earliest stages, within the public realm.
Nearly 30 years after the opening of his seminal exhibition ‘Pavilions’, Graham will re-visit the Kunsthalle Bern to present a film screening of selection of his performance pieces from the 1970s, as well as clips from his iconic film, ‘Rock My Religion’. The film screening will take place at the Kunsthalle Bern on Wednesday 8 February at 4 pm.
During the exhibition’s opening, Hauser & Wirth Zürich will host a book launch for Graham’s new publication: ‘Dan Graham’s New Jersey’, published by Lars Müller. The publication presents new photographs taken by Graham together with original photographs from his iconic ‘Homes for America’ series. ‘Dan Graham – Hans Ulrich Obrist. The Conversation Series 25’, has also recently been published and features a series of insightful interviews between Graham and Obrist. The publication is available from Walther König.