Magazine article Artforum International

Rodney Graham

Magazine article Artforum International

Rodney Graham

Article excerpt

Post-arcadian, neo-romantic, and curiously classical, Rodney Graham's seemingly contradictory investigations of nature negotiate the seditious terrain between criticality and homage. His signature large photographs of inverted trees (perhaps less an inversion than a dismantling of the retinal gymnastics our eyes perform and of the pinhole mechanics of photography) offer peaceful disruption and a cunning nod to the ways that art has always made nature into a complex site of desire and exploitation. In the 1998 "Welsh Oaks" series on view, Graham presents images as traditionally composed as those of any academic plein-air painter of a century ago. Placed in taut relation to the edges of the pictorial image against a low horizon line, his isolated trees are the subjects of determined and precise portraits. Graham opts here for oaks bereft of foliage, the annual cycle of arboreal mini-death dutifully suggested, as are the formal relationships among twig, branch, and trunk.

Presenting the trees upside down slows up access and intensifies seeing. Graham's inversion is not subversion, but a kind of reinvigoration, an opportunity to revisit territory so representationally drained by the history, of art as to be otherwise almost impossible to contemplate. By their framing and display, Graham's trees take on some of the moribund aspects of neoclassicism--an impassive grandeur and timelessness--as well as an existential attitude of silence and solitude. That all this is somewhat silly, an overlaid, heavily constructed fantasy of nature, does not undercut our recognition that this kind of language continues to be deeply rooted in our vernacular. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.