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Art What!: Rodney Graham For for Lisson Gallery’s New Online Exhibitions Platform

Rodney Graham, My Late Early Styles (Part I, The Middle Period), 2007-2009
Chromogenic photograph
186.4 x 247.6 cm, 73 3/8 x 97 1/2 in
© Rodney Graham Studio; courtesy Lisson Gallery

On 6th May, Lisson Gallery will launch a solo presentation by Rodney Graham, unveiling a new series of paintings made especially for the occasion, to be exhibited simultaneously across Frieze Art Fair’s viewing room, and the first exhibition for Lisson Gallery’s new Online Exhibitions platform.

Lisson’s site will also feature new virtual-reality capability, allowing visitors to experience this series as a whole, as if installed physically in the gallery. This new body of work evolved out of the paintings created by Rodney Graham for his lightbox, Vacuuming the Gallery, 1949 (2018). Each lightbox of Graham’s involves a meticulously curated stage-set, with every prop, costume or backdrop carefully designed and produced. This four-panelled work, exhibited at Lisson Gallery during Frieze London 2018, depicts a pipe-smoking mid-century art dealer vacuuming his gallery, perhaps before an opening. Surrounding the dealer in his faux-gallery are a series of paintings that make up his new exhibition.

These works were created by Graham to represent the abstract paintings that would have been radical, and represented by such an art dealer, at the time, post-World War II, with Graham even commissioning individual frames appropriate for the era. The language of these paintings was inspired by a single drawing from 1940 by Rodchenko, painted on canvas with layered gesso and sand, referencing this use by modernist artists from Picasso to Dubuffet, but layering the paint to create new textures.

In this new series of paintings on show this May, Graham continues to play as a modernist painter, drawing on the vocabulary of 20th century art. Here, he further expands on the themes from the works presented in Vacuuming the Gallery, but splices together different styles, from Braques and Picasso, to Rodchenko and Fontana.

Previous and recent painting series by Graham are also referenced, such as Possible Abstractions, based on a 1950s cartoon from a men’s magazine lampooning modern art; the Psychomania Variations, variants on a prop modernist painting in one of the sets of a 1970s British biker movie; the Inverted Drip Paintings that evolved from The Gifted Amateur lightbox, picturing an amateur painter inspired by a Morris Louis exhibition in 1962; and a series of recent polka dot relief paintings.

Sampling aspects of these paintings, Graham has created a new style, with various new modernist compositions. Lisson recently published a new video with Graham, discussing this new body of work and his wider practice, including his thoughts on the myth of the artist, his previous alter-egos and the back-stories to these characters and settings.

Rodney Graham’s online exhibition runs from 6th to 15th May 2020, with more information available on the Lisson Gallery’s website here

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