Rodney Graham, Artist and Humorist Bonked by Coconuts, Dies at 73
Graham broke through with his video loop Vexation Island (1997), in which a castaway is repeatedly knocked out by falling fruit. Despite starring in many of his works, he said, 'I'm not any good at acting, even acting unconscious.'
Rodney Graham. Courtesy Esther Schipper.
Canadian artist Rodney Graham died of cancer on 22 October. The news was announced in a shared statement by his galleries—303 Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, Lisson Gallery, Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, and Esther Schipper.
'We've lost our dear Rodney, a genius artist, dear friend, master of disguise, snappy dresser, supplier of dry humour, an amazing songwriter, always modest, an understated intellectual, gifted amateur, professional connoisseur, Sunday painter who seldom worked Sundays, ultimately a true professional in every sense of what it means to be an artist,' said Lisson's founder Nicholas Logsdail.
Born in British Columbia in 1949, Graham studied under conceptual artist Ian Wallace at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. During the 1980s he became associated with the Vancouver School, a group of artists exploring conceptual photography that included Wallace, Jeff Wall, and Ken Lum.
'Our first big project was support and fundraising for his 70mm technicolour film Vexation Island made for the Canadian Pavilion in Venice,' Logsdail said. 'He should have won the Golden Lion. The work was seen by tens of thousands of people, putting him on the map.'
In addition to making videos and photographs steeped in art historical references, late in his career Graham began to paint. He described painting as a shift away from Marcel Duchamp and towards Pablo Picasso.
In another blow to the art world, Peter Schjeldahl, head art critic for The New Yorker, died on Friday at age 80. Schjeldahl wrote about his battle with lung cancer in the 2019 article 'The Art of Dying'.
'Death is like painting rather than like sculpture, because it's seen from only one side,' he wrote.
Schjeldahl also commented on the impossibility of critics and artists maintaining close friendships.
'Each wants from the other something—the artist's mojo, the critic's sagacity—that belongs strictly to the audiences for their respective work. It's like two vacuum cleaners sucking at each other,' he wrote. —[O]