Girl’s Makeup Room, 1998/2000, image courtesy of Artnet.
Today, I went to the Whitney Museum to see Dan Graham: Beyond. I heard alot about the show, and was anxious to see the work, especially not really knowing what to expect. Well, I had some idea actually, I knew that he was a performer, and I expected some photographs as well. On cue, there were black and white photos documenting performances. The photos (from original film-!) have faded at the edges and most are stained with spots of orange where glue was used to help them stay securely in their respective frames. Walking through the exhibit, I couldn’t help but feel the time present in which the work had been made. Artwork of the 1960’s/70’s/80’s has a particular feel, sound, sight and smell. In the written captions that accompany the photographs/performance documentation, I clearly (yet imaginably) heard the voice of Vito Acconci. I remembered the white dust that plagued the large scale structural cut-outs of Gordon Matta-Clark (You Are The Measure, was on view at the Whitney April, 2007) also documented in black and white photographs. Dare I say that much of the work of Dan Graham, feels dated and very specific to the time in which it was made.
“Rock My Religion”, 1982-84 is a single-channel video that references pop-culture along with the idolization of rock stars in comparison to religious icons. This piece in particular, is really strong. It pulls from all that Dan Graham referenced in previous works and is not only accessible, but also monumental in a way that it dissects pop-culture from the 1950’s to the flower children of the late 60’s and onto Straight-edge punk/hardcore bands like Minor Threat. Graham inserts his own commentary and by splicing and editing appropriated footage, he managed to create what is almost a politicalized music video. I found myself sitting and spending the majority of my time in front of this particular piece, if for its historic resonance alone.
Other works that stand out, are his reflective sculptural installations that play with the idea of surveillance. Tinted glass and mirrored surface are somewhat disillusioning but invite the viewer to enter. I personally enjoy the physicality of “going into” a controlled space and interacting. Overall I wouldn’t say that I loved the exhibition, but was and am fully aware of its context and relevance especially regarding America and a particular niche of pop culture explosion and a society now based so heavily and not uniquely on surveillance.
Walking down the stairs from the 4th floor to the 3rd, on my way to view Abstractions of Georgia O’keefe I took the above photo with my iPhone. The composition, lighting, and excitement delving into my own sense of voyerism/surveillance, escaped through the outlet of my finger tips and were all captured digitally.
Dan Graham: Beyond is on view at the Whitney Museum of Art from June 25-October 11, 2009
More soon x