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Rodney Graham, Artforum

Summer 2011

Rodney Graham, Inverted Drip Painting #22, 2008

Rodney Graham, Inverted Drip Painting #22, 2008

Liquid acrylic on linen, 84 x 109 inches

My interest in Abstract Expressionism and post-painterly abstraction came late--as did my interest in painting in general--and was motivated by a reading of Shep Steiner's 1997 thesis on that similarly late-blooming member of the Washington Color School, Morris Louis. That was when I learned of Louis's tiny, twelve-by-fourteen-foot home studio in Washington, DC (this was even smaller than my own studio at the time), where the artist realized his "Veils" series [1954,1958-59] and hundreds of the very large "Unfurleds" [1960-61]. I was fascinated then by the fact that these heroically scaled paintings were made not in the relatively spacious context of a traditional artist's studio, close to the middle of the action like Jackson Pollock's barn in East Hampton, New York, but far from the center of the art world, in a domestic space that was smaller than the works themselves. In fact, Louis couldn't even see a painting all at once-he had to carry a work into the adjoining living room to view it, after laboriously shuffling furniture. So I still find myself, in my mind's eye, contrasting the fluid, classical movements of Pollock's well-documented Abstract Expressionist ballet against the weird, modernist, angular contortions most likely imposed on his successor: the poor post-painterly abstractionist constrained by the ergonomics of the postwar kitchen nook.


Rodney Graham is an artist based in Vancouver