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Photo by Alx Phillips
Rodney Graham portrait home
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Photo by: Tony Coll, Barcelona
Luces a non lucendo (1987) © Rodney Graham and Lisson Gallery, 2009. Courtesy: Ellipse Foundation—Contemporary Art Collection
Canadian artist Rodney Graham (b.1949), a fan of Sigmund Freud, explores unconscious processes in his artwork. Thanks to curator Friedrich Meschede, Graham’s solo show at MACBA tingles throughout with the hints of a narrative that we want to believe in, but that ultimately proves to be elusive.
Graham draws on imaginative 19th-century writers to drop his hints. He extracts objects and text from the books of Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Georg Büchner and the Brothers Grimm. Repetitions are highlighted, compelling us to make connections.
Graham began in the late Seventies by creeping through the British Columbian woods at night, startling trees with his flash photography. He amplifies the theme in the installation ‘Edge of a Wood’ (1999), where we are trapped between a hostile barrage of dark trees and an equally invasive rescue helicopter.
There is constant cross-referencing between works: the sound of the helicopter is re-evoked in the whirring of monster projectors; those projectors are capturing the glint of diamonds on a chandelier, which themselves later appear in a piece about burning cinnamon. A looped theme from Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal pervades the whole show. Inspired by a reported event from 1882, when, in rehearsal for the premiere performance of the opera, a part of the music was subtly looped to accommodate for some slow-moving scenery, Graham’s version lengthens the piece interminably, so that its build-up never reaches crescendo. It epitomises his artwork in general: after the flash of recognition has faded, we are always left in the dark.
Alx gave this show four stars out of five.