The new show by Dan Graham at the Lisson Gallery in London is at once predictable and unexpected. Those who have known and loved the interactive experience of Graham’s Pavilions for the last several decades will recognize his stamp, yet somehow—for those familiar or not with his work—Graham manages to create surprise and delight every time.
The 70-year-old artist continues to develop his series of structural meditations on the perception of space, which he began in the 1980s. The Lisson Gallery exhibition combines two new large pavilions with three pavilion scale models being built, and accompanying the show is a catalog of not-yet-realized pavilion drawings by the perpetually ambitious artist.
As studies on the concepts of inside and outside, it’s appropriate that Lisson has placed one large pavilion inside and one in their sculpture yard outside. The light-filled white space of the gallery suits the perfectly engineered minimalism of Graham’s work, which combines references to the slickness of modern architecture with the entrancing effect of a hall of mirrors.
However, Graham’s is best experienced outdoors where the concave and convex semi-reflective surfaces have so much more to play with, from sky and clouds to trees, buildings and people. The superbly detailed structures are both sculptures to admire and, at the same time, blank canvases to reflect their surroundings. Inside an empty white space, the reflections remain monochrome and calm. Outside, the glass canvas is splashed with busy, eclectic and multi-colored reflections that change rapidly and dramatically.
While many experience the Pavilions as playful spaces, it’s interesting to see the Lisson Gallery referencing more sinister themes such as voyeurism and surveillance. As they explain, it can indeed be disconcerting to be enveloped by a Dan Graham installation. According to the gallery’s description of the exhibition, “Viewers are involved in the voyeuristic act of seeing oneself reflected, while at the same time watching others. Whilst giving people a sense of themselves in space it can also result in loss of self as the viewer is momentarily unable to determine the difference between the physical reality and the reflection.”
Pavilions is on display at the Lisson Gallery through 28 April 2012.
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All photos by Leonora Oppenheim