Famous American artist Dan Graham has passed away. His galleries have confirmed that he died on Saturday February 19 at the age of 79 in New York City – the cause of death has not been announced. He is survived by his wife, the artist Mieko Meguro.
A true multidisciplinary, Graham has worked across sculpture, writing, photography and film. He was also extremely knowledgeable on a range of subjects, including astrology, rock music and urban space, and was known to give lively lectures on these subjects over the years. He co-authored a book in 2014 that considered the star signs of famous architects.
Although he once said he “didn’t like” conceptual art, noting that his work was more about “anarchic humor”, Graham was an important pioneer of text-based art, schematic poems and textual wall hangings. Many of his works involved his audience, such as Performer/Public/Mirror from 1975, where Graham places himself between seated spectators and a large mirror, drawing them into his performance through their reflection.
A joint statement shared by his galleries Lisson Gallery, Marian Goodman Gallery, 303 Gallery and Regen Projects confirmed Graham’s death. “His wit, generosity and irascibility will be sorely missed by all who knew him,” they wrote. “His influence over the last half century as a writer, photographer, architect, sculptor, filmmaker and performance artist is widely felt in the world of contemporary art.”
Graham was born on March 31, 1942 in Urbana, Illinois. Although he had no formal artistic training, he founded and ran his own gallery, John Daniels Gallery, in New York in the 1960s. There he curated and exhibited artists Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd and Robert Smithson. when he was in his early twenties in New York. After the gallery closed in 1965, he said the experience of working in the context of a commercial gallery influenced the type of art he started making, which he once described as a reaction to “gallery art” and the economic systems of art galleries.
Graham was best known for his so-called pavilions, architectural steel and glass exterior structures that played with transparency and reflection. His first construction version of this sculpture was permanently installed as Café Bravo at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, commissioned by Klaus Biesenbach in 1998. Other notable pavilions are in the Hayward Gallery in London, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and at Dia: Chelsea in New York.
“Graham intended his pavilions to function as punctuation marks, interrupting or altering the experience of physical space, providing a momentary diversion for romance or play,” Merchants wrote in their statement, “These structures of a deceptive simplicity recall many of the artist’s earlier experiments with perception, reflection and refraction, but deviate from them in their non-gallery setting as long-term additions to the landscape.
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