Lobbing Potatoes: Dan Graham and Rodney Graham (Art in America online)

Lobbing Potatoes: Dan Graham and Rodney Graham

On the occasion of Rodney Graham's exhibition of new work at 303 Gallery, Dan Graham locates the artist's interests in Nineteenth Century panorama painting, stylized mid-century West Coast modernism, and—most surprisingly—the colors of Van Gogh.

DAN GRAHAM: I found your art interesting as a collector and as a teacher for many years. I find that it's growing as you get older. That's not true of many artists, whose work usually falls into a trademark and gets worse. You base your work on the nineteenth century. I love Thomas Eakins enormously. And Jeff Wall doesn't realize that the first panoramas were done by Frederic Church, who's a real hero of mine. But you're also concerned with the real Wild West, right?
RODNEY GRAHAM: Well, there's a piece in the show, Dance!!!!! (2008, pictured left courtesy 303 Gallery), dealing with that trope. It goes back to one of the oldest tropes in Western cinema, even back to the Great Train Robbery, the scene of someone being forced to dance at gunpoint.

DAN: But that's kind of slapstick, Vaudeville, right?

RODNEY: That's true. I'm interested in using those moments of cinema as reference points.

DAN: You were just a stiff, but now you've become a dancer. Does that relate to Tracey Emin's first video, Why I Never Became a Dancer (1995), which I remember you referencing in the past? In that work there were cartoons, and you were able to push the screen, and she'd dance.

RODNEY: Maybe, that's true. I just shot another dance piece called Dancing Hermit, in which a hermit is dancing in the backyard behind his hut for two young people who come to visit him, as if he's a wizard or something. He's doing a sun dance, very ecstatic. But rock 'n roll did help me loosen up, get in touch with my inner songwriter, and it opened up possibilities for me to, as you say, loosen up.