Dan Graham was born in 1942, in Urbana, Illinois. Working as an art critic, he started to concentrate on Minimal Art in 1964. He then decided to devote himself to the creation of art based on a broad repertoire of conceptual approaches. At first, he published his artistic contributions in journals, magazines, and in tabloids. They contained a multifaceted mixture of concrete poetry and photojournalist approaches. In this early work, Graham employed compositional principles of Minimalism (Schema 1966).
With his photo-series Homes of America (1966/67), Graham became known to a larger audience. Aside from showing the clear and monotonously geometrical, formal structure of suburban homes, the reduced photographs also display – without pathos – a commitment to the social positioning of art that evokes the photographic reportages of Walker Evans.
Starting in the 1970s, Performances, films, and videos as well as an interest in music criticism became increasingly important for Graham’s work. Inspired by contemporary dance and the performative concepts of artists Richard Long and Bruce Naumann, a series of films emerged. They are experimental investigations of the act of visual perception and of motor behavior. In this context, Graham’s theoretical concern with concepts of perception that underlie phenomenology and behaviorism plays an especially important role (Present Continous Past(s) 1974; Body Press 1970/72; Public Space / Two Audiences, 1976). In all of his film works Graham focused on the social space of interaction, at first in relation to the public space and the audience of the Performance that he integrated into his films. With video works such as Rock My Religion (1982 — 84), Graham extended his repertoire to include phenomena of pop music which gained increasing importance for his projects.
Soon, however, the contrasting relation between private living-space and public exterior space emerged as a center of Graham’s critical interests. He often operated with architectural models where he created situative interrelations; for example, he opened up a prototypical townhouse with a glass wall, while at the same time reflecting the exterior towards the interior (Alteration to a Suburban House, 1978; Video Projection Outside Home, 1978). With his mirror or glass pavilions in the public space of gardens and parks, he began in the late 1970s to create walk-in places in the space of nature – places that open up manifold forms of self-perception and of perceiving others (Two Adjacent Pavilions, 1978/82; Octagon für Münster, 1987; Pyramide, 1997).
Since the early 1970s, Graham’s work has been shown at numerous exhibitions, for example, at the Documenta 5, 6, and 7 (1972, 1977, 1982) and at »Skulptur Projekte Münster« (1992, 1997). Further important locations where his work has been shown are the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1981), the Kunsthalle Bern (1983), the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1987), the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1994), the Villa Stuck, Munich (1994), the Basler Museum für Gegenwartskunst (1996), and the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.
Dan Graham lives and works in New York.
Dan Graham, Works, 1965 — 2000: Ausst.-Kat. Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, hg. v. M. Brouwer, Düsseldorf 2001
Metzger, Rainer: Dan Graham, Köln 1996
The Suburban City, Dan Graham: Ausst.-Kat. Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel u.a., hg. v. Th. Vischer, Basel, 1996
Wilmes, U. (Hg.): Dan Graham. Ausgewählte Schriften, Ostfildern 1994