Fall 2006 Talks
Dan Graham, (b.1952, Urbana, IL), whose diverse art has shaped and pushed the boundaries of conceptual art for more than four decades, has been creating quasi-architectural structures for parks, museums, and other public and private spaces internationally since the 1970s. Neither sculpture nor architecture, Graham's pavilions are made of two-way reflective glass. Inside and outside, one's own reflection merges with the reflective images of other people, as well as with the shifting skyscape and landscape. Graham's environments create and explore the notion of "intersubjectivity" as experienced by both the perceiver and the perceived. Some, like Yin/Yang Pavilion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997-2002) and Star of David Pavilion for Schloß Buchberg in Austria (1991-1996), are rooted in social function or symbolism. Others, like his 2002 Public Art Fund commission Bisected Triangle, Interior Curve in Madison Square Park, seem to be simply contemplative oases that offer each viewer a layered visual experience. Among his chief influences are minimalist artist Dan Flavin and the 19th-century Hudson River School artists, whose vastly different bodies of work have in common their ability to instill in viewers a sense of the sublime.
Sharon Lockhart (b.1964, Los Angeles, CA) creates eloquent, carefully composed still and moving pictures to explore the conventions of film and photography, and the complex relationship between these two visual forms. Wide ranging in subject matter, the Los Angeles-based artist's work is characterized by narrative ambiguity, lush detail and an air of contemplative quietude. In some pieces, like the diptych Maja and Elodie (2003), she emphasizes the role of the observer by presenting two nearly identical photographs side by side, inviting viewers to consider not only the imagery at hand but also the pleasure and profundity of the act of looking at it. Drawing upon structural and documentary filmmaking traditions, Lockhart's art strikes a balance between intimacy and objectivity, addressing the nature of self-representation and anthropologic inquiry. For Pine Flat (2005), her recent series, Lockhart made an extended visit to a village in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains where, following the 19th-century tradition of the town-portrait photographer, she transformed a barn in the center of the community into a photo studio in which local children could have their pictures taken at any time. Over the course of two and a half years, she also filmed the children in the town's stunningly beautiful natural surroundings, resulting in a feature-length film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
"I'll be rich in five years. It will not be due to any big change on my part. It'll be you. You'll finally get me." This declaration is just one of thousands of provocative thoughts, claims, confessions and sentiments that Sean Landers (b.1962, Springfield, MA), has poured into his art since the early 1990s, when he first exhibited his allover text paintings. With its singular combination of elation, self-exposure, boastfulness and self-loathing, Landers' artistic output—which also includes representational paintings and sculpture—examines the joys and pitfalls of creative expression, and the definition of artistic success. Whether featured in the foreground or, as in works like Plankboy (2000), scrawled across the background, Landers's relentless inner monologue is at once deeply honest, humorous, and direct—but also carefully crafted, much like a stand-up comic's persona. Landers has, in fact, often depicted clowns and comedians in his work, using them as stand-ins for the artist as medieval fool—one who is licensed to speak the truth from behind a mask of humor. "Sean Landers" the character and Sean Landers the author continually trade places, keeping the viewer guessing in a metaphysical game where the deceptive appearance of failure and vulnerability functions as a strategy of engagement with the world.
Public Art Fund Talks are organized by the Public Art Fund in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.