Lisson Gallery

Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You

New York, 21 March – 8 April 2023

Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You

Just over one year ago, we lost a wonderful artist and friend in Dan Graham. The artist will be honored in a memorial to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, later this month, on what would have been his 81st birthday. Lisson Gallery, 303 Gallery, Marian Goodman Gallery, 3A Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art and Printed Matter are honored to present works by Graham across their NYC gallery spaces to coincide with the memorial, paying tribute to a figure whose legacy extends beyond his art making and will continue to be felt by the many who encountered Graham while he was alive. 

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Dan Graham Here’s Looking at You

In 1967 Allan Kaprow wrote an introduction to his first retrospective catalogue. The show, organized by the Pasadena
Art Museum, incorporated a selection of Kaprow’s paintings and assemblages produced from 1953 to 1957, a period
leading up to his first “happening,” which would take place April 1958. Kaprow’s short, 317 word, text began:

I am put off by museums in general; they reek of a holy death which offends my sense of reality. Moreover, apart
from my personal view, most advanced art of the last half-dozen years is, in my view, inappropriate for museum
display. It is an art of the world: enormous scale, environmental scope, mixed media, spectator participation,
technology, themes drawn from the daily milieu, & so forth. Museums do more than isolate such work from life,
they subtly sanctify it & thus kill it.

Kaprow’s consideration of the function of institutions neatly echoes and expanded upon Claes Oldenburg’s “I Am For”
manifesto, first published in 1961, which emphatically unwinds from its opening line:

I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum...

Dan Graham had disdain for being labeled a “conceptual artist.” He outright despised—as most artists did—being
pigeonholed by an academic term that implied his work was somehow purely an intellectual proposition, as being a
“concept” rather than a reality operating within a historic framework.

He was no more pleased with the label, “artist,” preferring to think of himself as an amateur.

From the mid-1960s on Graham was an unprofessional gallerist, poet, music critic, art critic, architectural theorist,
humorist. Certainly not—according to him—a professional sculptor or architect.

Like Kaprow and Oldenburg, Graham had a particular discomfort for the white cube of galleries and institutional spaces.
Although he certainly appreciated the value that these venues conferred upon objects placed within these spaces—that is
the contextual mantle that confirms that what is presented in a gallery is art—the void of the white cube was seen by
Graham as a frequently dehumanizing place inhabited by static, sterile, and habitually cold artworks.

Dan Graham wasn’t interested in such lifeless experiences, but was fascinated by astrology, relationships, social
situations and the interconnectivity of culture outside of the narrow confines of spaces with white walls with static works
affixed to them.

In 1969 he began thinking about how to mine the gap between life and objecthood by crafting distinctive performative
scenarios within galleries. In many cases these performances developed into his films, television and tape works.

The works presented here—Lax / Relax (1969-1995), Past Future Split Attention (1972), and Performer / Audience /
(1975)—are primary works within which Graham crafted an approach that inverted the relationship between
objects and viewers. In order to do this he sought to objectify himself—and others—as dynamic forms within the
exhibition space. Which is to say, gallery viewers became objects moving in tandem with Graham as he mediated the
gallery experience.

These same taped performances incorporating mirrors and narrative structures foreshadowed the two-way mirrored
surfaces of Graham’s outdoor pavilions that he began developing in 1978 for suburban environments. As Graham would
say, his works were frequently “fun houses for children and photo opportunities for adults.”

The video works seen here attest to that reflective interaction between artist and audience, placing performer and viewer
together in the same plane of action, crafting art that refuses to isolate itself from life or sit on its ass in a museum.

–David Platzker

Installation views

Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You artwork
Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You artwork
Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You artwork
Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You artwork
Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You artwork
Dan Graham: Here's Looking at You artwork

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New York

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