Prefix ICA » Rodney Graham Jack of All Trades


May 12 to July 30, 2016

Rodney Graham
Jack of All Trades

Curated by Scott McLeod

Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Jack of All Trades, a solo exhibition by renowned Canadian artist Rodney Graham. Featuring three recent allegorical portraits mounted in large-scale light boxes, the exhibition is curated by Scott McLeod and presented as a primary exhibition of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

An accomplished writer, musician, painter, filmmaker and photographer, as well as a performance, sound and installation artist, Rodney Graham is the master of many disciplines. At the core of the artist’s diverse practice, however, is photography, the medium in which his practice originated and the technology upon which many of his works depend. For the past two decades, he has used photography to create a vision that is virtually cinematic, employing a vast array of characters to construct humorous situations in his studio, in which he is a prominent figure. From the props and their placement within the frame, to the elaborate costumes and stage sets, each scene is purposefully constructed and executed with an exceptional degree of technical expertise.

Basement Camera Shop, Circa 1937 (2011) depicts Graham as a buttoned-up sales clerk positioned behind the counter of a modest photography store, surrounded by a small selection of early cameras and boxes of film. In Actor/Director, 1954 (2013), the studio has been reconstructed to resemble the garden of Versailles. Dressed in an eighteenth-century costume, Graham’s character sets up a shot with a three-reel Technicolor motion-picture camera. Cigarette in hand, he contemplates the subject—a hat resting on a garden bench. Pipe Cleaner Artist, Amalfi ’61 (2013) depicts the artist at work in his studio—an adobe building bathed in natural light. Clad in casual summer attire and sandals, Graham sits comfortably in a relaxed, almost meditative, pose, begging the question: what is it that distinguishes the master from the hobbyist?

Initially, these photographs appear deceptively simple, works of sly self-portraiture by a recognizable artist. However, a closer reading reveals their complexity. As curator Scott McLeod writes, these works “…occupy an interstitial space which eludes a singular or stable meaning. The viewer should not mistake the figures depicted for Graham himself, for Graham both is and is not the subject of the photograph. Although he draws on details from his personal experience and his knowledge of art history to produce his images, his characterizations are modelled more on stock characters than on his individual personality. His process is akin to that of an actor playing the role of someone much like, but not quite, himself.”

About the Artist

Rodney Graham is a conceptual artist who was born in 1949 in Abbotsford, British Columbia. For more than forty years, his work has been exhibited throughout North America and Europe. In 1997, he represented Canada at the 47th Venice Biennale. In 2005, he was the subject of a major survey exhibition circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery. Most recently, he has had solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the Jeu de Paume (Paris), among others. Graham’s work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Centre Pompidou (Paris) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), among others. Graham is represented by 303 Gallery (New York), Lisson Gallery (London) and Hauser & Wirth (Zürich). He lives and works in Vancouver.

Project Supporters

Canada Council for the Arts

Presentation Partners

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival