Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gone Fishin'

We are attracted to the art of Rodney Graham because it is both intelligent and funny. Not ha ha funny, but funny in a way that Marcello Mastroianni is funny. Which is to say quietly funny, where the grins begin not with anything the artist does, but his presence in a context that often feels incongruous to who we think his subject is.

The only artists I know who engage in this kind of presentation in a "live" improvisational setting are Paul Kajander and Ron Tran, both of whom are known to sneak off at the height of a house party, only to re-appear like ninjas in the middle of the dance floor, having decorated themselves with their host's clothes, linens, umbrellas, handbags, cardboard boxes -- whatever else they find lying around (or in some cases hidden!).

In the above diptych (which Graham shot in his studio and at the entrance to False Creek), the humour does not reside so much in the artist's presence but in a visual gag that brings to mind the necessity of the void space that another artist, Ian Wallace, has made so much of in his photo-paintings, where figures enter and exit monochromatic voids. These voids are imaginative spaces, dérive spaces. In Graham's Fishing on a Jetty (2000), the void is what happens between two of these frames, not within one.

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