Monday, December 7, 2015

Rodney Graham - Canadian conceptual artist

I was expecting to complete this post several months ago when I wrote about the Douglas Coupland exhibit, but it has been closer to 15 months now.  I guess I couldn't really think of a hook.  I don't really know all that much about Rodney Graham, other than to me he seems a bit of a knock-off of Jeff Wall, another well-known photographer from Vancouver, though I did like Canadian Humorist, which I included in that post.

But the art world needs to constantly be promoting the next new thing, and Jeff Wall has been on top for too long, so it became Graham's turn.  He had that small exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, then a number of exhibits around Vancouver just as I was packing up and leaving in 2014, so I missed them all.  I believe he was featured in a recent Biennial, and now he has his own small show in the Tate Modern.  In this short piece from the Georgia Straight, announcing the Tate Modern show, there is a video interview with Graham.  I found it fairly interesting.  However, after I had watched it, I actually had quite a bit less respect for Graham than I did before.  He hardly ever takes his own photographs.  All he is doing is staging the scene and letting a real photographer get the image right.  (This is why he is primarily a conceptual artist, but this is no different from Wall, who stages his photos and takes them himself, though Graham has a bit more "cheekiness" behind his ideas.)  Also, Graham is apparently a bit obsessed with being the center of attention, so he is fearing that as he ages (and can no longer be the leading man) he has fewer choices and is running out of ideas that he wants to pursue.  So overall I find him lacking when compared to Jeff Wall.  But then to hear how he thinks he is almost done, ready to retire, when he has finally achieved (momentary) fame in the art world is completely beyond me.  He sounded seriously depressed in the end of that video, and if I were one of his friends, I would be pretty worried.

I guess to not leave this on a completely sour note, I will post one of his recent images that I liked, though even here there is a heavy layer of nostalgia pervading this piece (perhaps Graham hinting that his best days are behind him).

Rodney Graham, The Avid Reader 1949, 2011

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