Text by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
Robert Graham: Early Work 1963-1973 brings together rarely seen works by this American artist, providing an overview and reconsideration of Graham’s initial engagement with Minimalism and figurative sculpture. The exhibition, held at David Zwirner in 2011, comprised one of the first major presentations of the artist’s early work in the United States since 1972. Modeled after images found on television or in popular magazines, such as Life, Graham’s early work presents Plexiglas-encased environments populated by miniature wax figurines engaged in leisurely or pleasurable activities. The ethereal surfaces of the artist’s plastic enclosures are evocative of the highly finished and meticulous objects that have become associated with the so-called “Finish Fetish” aesthetic, and their interior spaces are suggestive of the geography of 1960s California as well as the modernist domestic interiors popularized by John Entenza’s Case Study House Program. Over the course of his career, Graham went on to develop an exceptionally focused artistic practice characterized by a consistent preoccupation with scale and the human figure. Since the early 1970s, his works have been exhibited widely, at such venues as Kunstverein Hamburg, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. Work by the artist is held in major museum collections around the world, and Graham has also received numerous public commissions, including the 1984 Olympic Gateway in Los Angeles and the Duke Ellington Memorial in Central Park, New York (1997). Born in Mexico City in 1938, he died in Santa Monica, California, in 2008.