press release

Dan Graham: Works That are Fun for the Family
20 May to 27 August 2017

We are greatly honored that Dan Graham has decided to hold his first solo exhibition in the eastern part of Europe in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.

In his artwork, as in his unconventional approach to art, architecture, town planning, pop and underground culture, Dan Graham has certainly become one of the most important protagonists in the world of contemporary 20th century art. Opening up new approaches to creativity, in the second half of the 1960s he became one of the pioneers of conceptual art, which he quickly broadened to experimentation in video and to performance, where a psychological aspect was also included – interrelationship between artist and audience. The exhibition will document his first performances and video performances in which he explored the perception of the human body in relation to technology, and show his 16 mm film Body Press (1970-1972) where a male and female filmmaker guide the eye of the camera spirally around their own bodies inside a cylinder with a mirrorized surface, thus announcing the curving and reflecting architectural forms of his later works.

Graham’s earliest video performances from the late sixties and early seventies of the 20th century are also an important link with the first experimental video works by Croatian artists (Sanja Iveković, Dalibor Martinis and Goran Trbuljak), singled out on this occasion and shown separately under the title Inter nos, named after a work by Sanja Iveković from 1978.

However, in time Graham’s intuitive research widened to an increasingly deep interest in the architectural space. In the section The Audience in the Performance. From Performance to Pavilion we examine the key relationship between his early performances and the pavilions that are based on a new approach to the audience in a work of art, and this concept has been present since his first performances. Perception involving self-observation but at the same time also a voyeuristic act of observing others, and awareness of the passage of time, became the key starting points for his pavilions – hybrid forms on the boundary between architecture and sculpture.The pavilions are not true architectural objects, they could sooner be called “machines for watching” since they affect the way in which the audience interacts with the artwork and becomes its real protagonist. Visitors to the exhibition in MSU will have the opportunity for a live experience of these unusual objects made of transparent and mirroring surfaces, which Dan Graham used for an original reference to the history of Western Civilization, from Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo garden pavilions, through 19th century arcades and world exhibitions, to contemporary corporate architecture.

Graham’s interests are wide-ranging and his visual language incorporates another great passion – music. Besides the pavilions Girls' Make-up Room(1998-2000) and 2-Way Mirror Cylinder Bisected By Perforated Stainless Steel (2011-2012), the exhibition will also include Design for Showing Rock Videos (2012), an artwork which at the same time also functions as an entertainment venue. Showing films and videos about the hippy movement, hardcore, No Wave and post-punk groups, this pavilion was made as a kind of dedication to the counterculture in America and Europe in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century. Music has been implicitly present since Graham’s earliest works, but in the early eighties, at the time when he focused on and promoted the New York underground music scene as a rock critic, Dan Graham also tried his hand at the genre of documentary films. His famous documentary Rock My Religion (1983-1984), an authentic examination of 20th century culture through an analysis of music history, will be shown in the museum’s cinema hall Gorgona during the exhibition.

The video Death by Chocolate (1986-2005) consists of documentary footage from one of the world’s largest shopping malls, made in a time span of almost 20 years, addressing ways in which contemporary people seek oblivion by resorting to mass consumerism under the imperative of having fun and pursuing pleasure. In accordance with the artist’s wish, it will be shown in the context of the Avenue Mall shopping mall just across the street from MSU.

Besides showing his pavilions, model pavilions and documentary films about his most important realizations in the natural and urban environment, and supplementary programs of lectures and workshops, the exhibition will provide a small section through the creative work of Dan Graham in an attempt to encompass the complex activities of this versatile artist.

Dan Graham was born in 1942 in Urbana in Illinois, but he lives and works in New York. He has had retrospective exhibitions in many world museums, from the USA and Australia to Europe.He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale many times (1976, 2003, 2004, 2005), at Documenta in Kassel (1972, 1977, 1982, 1992, 1997) and at Skulptur Projekte in Münster (1987, 1997). He is the recipient of many awards, and in 2010 he was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Curators of the exhibition: Maurizio Bortolotti and Radmila Iva Janković
Exhibition set-up: Tihomir Milovac
Visual identity: Sanja Kuzmanović, Andro Giunio
Main partner of the exhibition: Lisson Gallery, London
Partners: Hauser & Wirth; Green Naftali, New York; Avenue Mall Zagreb
The exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the City of Zagreb.

Sponsors: Croatia osiguranje d.d., Face Croatia