Kayne Griffin Corcoran is pleased to present the gallery’s first exhibition of work by sculptor Robert Graham (1938-2008). This exhibition will consist of the artist’s early figurative sculpture in wax and bronze, as well as a selection of graphite and pastel drawings.
Robert Graham’s career-length meditation upon the human form dates back to his childhood when, driven to “explore three dimensions,” he first created an array of “little plasticine people.” In 1964, he had his first solo exhibition with Nicholas Wilder at his gallery in Palo Alto called Lanyon Gallery. Two years later, he showed with Wilder at his eponymous gallery in Los Angeles, where he exhibited a series of wax figures arranged in various tableaux and encased in Plexiglas boxes. Working initially from photographs pulled from magazines of the day, Graham produced meticulously detailed replicas of his human subjects, using a scale of one inch to one foot. As his practice progressed, Graham substituted photographs of live models for the magazine clippings, moving away from the narrative-driven dioramas and toward a more sober inquiry into the nature of the female form.
On display in the main gallery is a selection of work from this later phase in the series. Frozen as they may be, Graham’s figures--replete with perfectly formed fingers, nostrils and genitalia--evoke the tension of a body in motion; they sprawl supine across the floor, arch and twist at the torso, and slump over in a standing position. These wax forms inhabit a stage that is, for the most part, stripped bare of props. Instead, the transparent box itself serves as a pointed framing device. In peering through panes of glass to the disarmingly life-like nudes below, the viewer finds himself engaged in a disconcertingly voyeuristic act.
Despite the inherent sensuality of his subjects, Graham’s interest lay in portraiture rather than erotic reflection. Like Muybridge before him, the artist sought to capture the full effects of human motion, tracing a model’s gesture through a series of movements, presented side-by-side within a single box. In the 1970s, he removed the enclosures, and began to cast his figures in bronze. This material transition allowed Graham to mount his precise and detailed studies on a larger scale, beginning with columns and studies of female heads. Further exploration led to completion of full figures that he worked directly from live models, each posed in a neutral stance without movement or gestures.
Robert Graham’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Among his solo exhibitions include the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1970; Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1978, 1981, and 1988; a traveling exhibition organized by the Walker Art Center in 1981-82; Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 1997; Kemper Museum in Kansas City in 1999; and the Fisher Art Gallery, University of Southern California in 2007. His public commissions include monuments for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. the Olympic Gateway in Los Angeles, and the Great Bronze Doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles among others as well as many public installations nationally.
Robert Graham was born in Mexico City in 1938. He attended San Jose State University and San Francisco Art Institute, and lived and in London during the mid- 60s, prior to settling in Los Angeles. He established his studio in Venice, California where he worked until his death in 2008.
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