Rodney Graham ‘Vignettes of Life’ at Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
Hauser & Wirth Zürich presents an exhibition of new works by the Canadian artist Rodney Graham.
The exhibition features three new monumental lightboxes: ‘The Leaping Hermit’, ‘The Avid Reader’ and ‘Basement Camera Shop circa 1937’.
Rodney Graham, Leaping Hermit, 2011. © Rodney Graham. Courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography
‘The Leaping Hermit’ presents an intricately detailed scene, showing Graham bearded and bedraggled, a free-spirited Bohemian caught in mid-jump as though joyfully experiencing a revelation from above. The three-part format of the work evokes medieval triptych painting. Its garden landscape and composition loosely recalls Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’, while the pose of the hermit seems to borrow from Matthias Grünewald’s resurrected Christ. Yet despite the biblical associations alluded to, like many of Graham’s works, the image defies interpretation, its subject unknown to religious mythology.
Rodney Graham, The Avid Reader 1949, 2011. © Rodney Graham. Courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography
‘The Avid Reader’ shows the artist in the role of rapt slacker absorbed in something we cannot see. The lightbox recreates the shopfront of a closed (or maybe re-opening) Woolworths in 1949, its windows covered with newspapers dating from 1945. Graham, playing the part of the avid reader, stands in front of the shop, transfixed by the headlines in the newspapers. To create the image, Graham first had to fabricate a street and then perform within it, making a situation familiar to us through a history peculiarly his own.
Rodney Graham, Basement Camera Shop circa 1937, 2011. © Rodney Graham. Courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography
The third lightbox, ‘Basement Camera Shop circa 1937’ is a reconstruction of a snapshot from the 1930s. The snapshot, which Graham first saw in an antique store, shows a photolab in Dauphin, Manitoba. Graham examined the photo very closely, using the information carried in the small black and white contact print to create a work about the early development of snapshot photography.