Dan Graham: Beyond
Museum of Contemporary Art
Los Angeles
Through May 25

Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art is still recovering from a recent funding crisis, said Richard Chang in the Orange County, Calif., Register. Yet it “continues to mount thoughtful and challenging exhibitions.” The latest takes in five decades of wildly diverse work “in a slew of different media” by Dan Graham, whose photographs, films, and installations blur traditional artistic genres. “Graham’s best and worst artworks involve video.” Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay (1975) is just what it says. “The viewer becomes a participant in the piece,” watching actions he undertook just a few seconds before. “Clearly the highlight of the show,” this work makes viewers amusingly aware of themselves. Too many of Graham’s videos, however, are “self-referential and self-reverential,” visually bland and sometimes even boring.

Actually, Graham’s intentionally dull visual aesthetic is what makes his best creations, said Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times. In the early 1960s, when colorful abstract images dominated the art world, he developed a compelling anti-aesthetic. Perhaps his “best-known piece,” Homes for America (1966–67), presents black-
and-white images of tract housing in New Jersey, “composed to underscore bland uniformity and sameness in the structures.”
Compared with his great early works, however, Graham’s more recent installations and architectural designs look unoriginal and unimaginative. Rock My Religion (1982–84) is a welcome exception. By juxtaposing footage of Shaker dances and worshippers speaking in tongues with that of Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimi Hendrix, the hourlong video “unexpectedly traces a quarter-century of raucous rock ’n’ roll back to America’s prim Puritan roots.”