24 September - 17 November 2002
Vancouver-based artist Rodney Graham has been creating photographs, installations, music, book works and film since the late 1970s. From his famous upside-down photographs of trees to his award-winning film at the 1997 Venice Biennale, he is recognised as one of the most original artists of his generation. Drawing from such diverse sources as Lewis Carroll, Kurt Cobain and Ian Fleming, this exhibition is the most comprehensive presentation of the artist's work to date. Inspired by his interest in cyclical narratives, Sigmund Freud and the unconscious, the works in the exhibition are loosely grouped into five sections and trace a psychological journey beginning with sleep and entry into a dream-like world.
The first section, Parallel Reality, in the Lower Gallery introduces Graham's early explorations into the relation between perception and reality. The artist's ongoing fascination with optical principles is reflected in his models of a camera obscura and inverted photographs of trees.
The second section, The Recurring Dream, includes the artist's celebrated film trilogy. These cinematic costume dramas show the artist as a variety of fantastical characters locked in cycles, including a marooned sailor on a wind-blown Pacific island, a lonesome cowboy repeatedly setting off into the sunset and a 19th century Parisian dandy perpetually accosting his country self. The films are looped, paralleling the recurrence of repressed traumatic memories.
Between the Lines in the Upper Gallery then focuses on Graham's interest in language through his book works, texts and literary appropriations. Often prompted by a coincidence or irregularity in a text, Graham frequently digresses to reach illogical and sometimes absurd conclusions.
In Performance, the fourth section, Graham explores music practice and instruction, taking Richard Wagner, his assistant Engelbert Humperdinck, Sigmund Freud and Kurt Cobain as his subjects. By infiltrating artists' practices he comments on values of authorship and originality.
The final section, Bliss, plays with different states of reality through film, photography and sculpture. If these attempts at altering perceptions of reality fall somewhat short of an idyllic experience, then 'Halcion Sleep' shows the artist in seventh heaven and finally sedated to sleep once again.
The exhibition is supported by The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada and The Canadian High Commission, London in co-operation of the Art Gallery of York University, Ontario.
The Whitechapel gratefully acknowledges the Circle of Friends including 303 Gallery, Donald Young Gallery, Lisson Gallery, La Colleccion Jumex, Philip Nelson and Sylvie Winckler. With thanks also to the Great Eastern Hotel.
This exhibition is co-produced by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, K21 Kunstsammlung im Ständehaus, Düsseldorf and Ville de Marseille/mac, galeries contemporaines des Musées de Marseille.