- Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA): 'Rodney Graham. Through the Forest'
- Museu Picasso de Barcelona: 'Possible Abstractions' by Rodney Graham
Before becoming a visual artist, Rodney Graham studied art history, anthropology, English and French literature. This is visible in his work until today:
The exhibition's title 'Through the Forest' is taken from a key phrase in the book 'Lenz' by Georg Büchner. It is about the romantic subject of being lost in the forest. Rodney Graham became aware of a peculiarity in the text layout of the translation by C. R. Müller: The words 'through the forest' coincided twice when passing form one page to another. He converted this coincidence into a narrative loop in which the spectator is obliged to continually retrace his steps. Similar to the book's main character 'Lenz'. Graham developed the piece's concept from the book's content.
The large retrospective at MACBA displays 250 works that include pictures, light-boxes, videos, sculptures, photographs, installations and music. The museum shows also the archive of Rodney Graham's former Belgian publisher, Mr. Yves Gevaert. This makes it easier to find out how the artist's complex ideas developed.
His bookshelf objects resemble works of the minimal artist Donald Judd. These sculptures are based on the book as an object. He also designed himself the book's bindings and covers. A feature of the book - the size - defines the sculpture. The artist translates something from one medium into another.
Rodney Graham frequently questions the role of the artist: For the large photo triptych 'The Gifted Amateur, Nov. 10th, 1962' of 2007 Graham casts himself a sleepwalking amateur painter who attempts to reproduce an action painting that occupied his interest back in art school. For me, he questions the avant-garde paradigm of modernism in this work.
In 1997, he was chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennial: He made a film installation about Robinson Crusoe, using Hollywood material. This film 'Vexation Island' founded his global reputation in the art world.
This show focuses on the films he made later: I liked his rather surrealistic work 'Rheinmetall/Victoria 8' of 2003: Rodney Graham bought a 1930s German typewriter from a second-hand-store in Canada. The brand name is 'Rheinmetall'. He also got an old film projector called 'Victoria 8'. The projector shows a film by Rodney Graham about this typewriter. First, he took long shots from various angles from the Rheinmetall typewriter. Then, he has flour snow on it, until the entire typewriter is covered with flour. Therefore, nothing can be printed anymore.
It is interesting: Both machines are technically obsolete today. In this installation one (the typewriter) would not be there without the other (projector). The old projector makes quite some noise - we are not used to that anymore from today's video beamers. It is like the two machines are fighting against each other.
Rodney Graham developed a special project for the parallel show at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona: For 'Possible Abstractions' he painted a number of canvases based upon a carton from a 1950s men's magazine.
Mr. Graham claims Picasso liked these magazines too...
by Carin Lambert
MACBA: 'Rodney Graham. Through the Forest.', Barcelona, Spain.
Through 18th May 2010
Then, this show will travel to:
Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel, Switzerland
13 June through 26 September 2010
Museu Picasso: 'Possible Abstractions' by Rodney Graham, Barcelona Spain
Through 18th May 2010
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