Dan Graham

(b. 1942)

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(1942– )

American installation and video artist and art theorist, born in Illinois. He began his career in art in 1964 organizing the John Daniels Gallery in New York. It lasted only a season, and showed the work of Minimal artists; it was also the centre for discussion of contemporary cultural issues such as serial music and New Wave cinema. After the gallery closed, Graham began writing on art. Some of his publications went beyond art journalism, becoming art works which used the magazine as a context in the way that the Minimalists used the gallery as a kind of frame. In this way Graham can be regarded as one of the first Conceptual artists. Through his meeting and correspondence with Terry Atkinson he became a contributor to the first issue of Art-Language (see Art & Language). The most significant of his early publications was ‘Homes for America’, which first appeared in Arts magazine in 1966, although by removing most of the visual material which Graham had wanted, the intention to produce a kind of artwork was undermined. On the surface this was an account of the architecture of post-war American suburban housing. What Graham showed implicitly was that, in spite of the apparent stylistic conservatism and appeal to tradition, the design of these buildings was subject to a kind of systematic approach close to the logic of much geometric abstraction and Minimal art, and that such designs were imposed regardless of the site in which they were placed.

Much of Graham's subsequent work as an artist has reflected this interest in architecture and the relationship of the receptor of the work, both as body and viewer, within it. He has made installations which employ delayed action video to unsettling effect, as one observes one's movements of a few moments previously. He has also made installations involving two-way mirrors that depend on the active engagement of the viewer. There is one on the roof of the DIA Foundation in New York. Graham also has a strong interest in popular culture, especially music and television. His video piece Rock my Religion (1982–84) is an hour-long survey that shows how the roots of contemporary popular music can be traced back to the radically egalitarian culture of the Shaker religion.

Further Reading

D. Graham (ed. B. Wallis), Rock my Religion (1993)

http://www.jca-online.com/graham.html Dan Graham interview with Peter Doroshenko, Journal of Contemporary Art website.

Subjects: Art.

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