Dan Graham’s fifty-year-long artistic practice is diverse and innovative, crisscrossing philosophy and popular culture. Graham has worked with Conceptualism and Minimalism, video and performance art, architectural sculpture, and the culture of rock and roll. Through all of these explorations, he has maintained a focus on what it means to be a person distinct form others, or “the changing relationship of individual to society, as filtered through American mass media and architecture.”
Graham was director of the short-lived John Daniels Gallery in New York City from 1964 to 1965, where he showed such Minimalist artists as Carl André, Sol LeWitt, and Donald Judd. From 1965 to 1969 he produced a series of text and image magazine spreads. In the 1970s, he worked on performance and video projects focusing on the performer and viewer’s gazes. His performances often included mirrored walls, video cameras and sound elements. In 1976 he moved beyond creating performances to constructing environments where viewers became both performers and observers. His 1976 pavilion for the Venice Biennale, Public Space/Two Audiences, was placed inside a gallery, disrupting the traditional viewing format of the modern, white-cube gallery. Soon, with the help of architects, he began creating independently standing architectural structures like Crazy Spheroid—Two Entrances—semi-reflective glass structures with a simple, minimal form.
Crazy Spheroid :Two Entrances is a half-ellipse constructed of two-way mirror glass and steel structural supports. Its interior is unequally divided into two chambers. The reflective pavilion is a combination of sculpture, architecture and performance art. Viewers are reflected into the work of art; they observe their own movements and surrounding figures. Door-way sized openings invite participants to enter the structure. The surrounding architecture, sky and landscape are also reflected into the work, creating a complex remixing of light, distorted figures, trees and buildings. The reflective structure disrupts the viewers’ normal perception and fosters a new relationship between the participant’s body and the outside world. Graham has worked extensively on pavilions for the last 30 years, which have been sited all over the world.
Dan Graham’s 2009 retrospective traveled from The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY, and the Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, MN. Graham has exhibited internationally in four Documenta exhibitions in Kassel, Germany (1972, 1977, 1982 and 1992), three Venice Biennials in Venice, Italy (1976, 2003, 2005), and in solo shows and mid-career retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Chiba City Museum of Art, Chiba, Japan; and Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal.