Robert Therrien’s exhibition of new sculptures and selected works on paper is open at the Gagosian (April 6 – May 26, 2017). In this exhibition —Therrien’s first in New York in ten years—are three free-standing rooms.
In his investigations of form, perception, and subjectivity, Therrien isolates elements and objects from domestic or daily life, detaching them from their known functions. Time and again, his work demonstrates the transformative power of scale and viewpoint, from massive tables and chairs to towering stacks of plates. Works in the current exhibition include highly polished, oversized drops, a large tied bow, and a flagpole, which, although recognizable, is constructed illusionistically according to aerial perspective.
Through shifts in perspective and scale, Therrien renders ordinary experience uncanny. This effect is demonstrated in his constructions of interior spaces, such as Red Room (2000–07), which holds some 900 red objects in a closet-sized space (now in the Tate Modern collection, London). Transparent Room (2010) contains a bed, clothing, a mirror, parts of a chandelier, packing materials, and more. However, Therrien renders his greenhouse-like structure and its contents totally transparent in glass and plastic. In the manner of set design, some of the contained objects are found, others made. The frosted nineteenth-century factory windows create the potential for apparitions; ordinary objects thus coalesce into a fragile, ghostly environment that is also a sculptural portrait.
Despite their verisimilitude, Therrien’s rooms impede the viewer’s ability to engage with space in any comfortable way. Meticulously assembled features of common industrial design allow one to stand in front of architectural vistas. Elevated above ground level and cut away to show interiors that, like dioramas, become impenetrable replicas of reality, each is like a mise-en-scène or readymade. No title (room, panic doors) (2013–14) presents a set of doors in a room filled with fluorescent light. In No title (paneled room) (2017), tambourines rest silent on the floor of a room luxuriously paneled in hardwood, and a ladder leads to a trapdoor in the ceiling. Each room transports the viewer out of the gallery and into a new narrative situation, prompting connections between material details and their subconscious associations. By making use of everyday things that are often overlooked, Therrien situates the viewer in familiar territory, then allows the objects to demand reassessment as instruments of subjectivity and of consciousness itself.
Robert Therrien was born in 1947 in Chicago, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Collections include Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; The Broad, Los Angeles; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Denver Art Museum, CO; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Tate, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; French National Collection, Paris; Museo Cantonale d’Arte, Switzerland; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Belgium; and QAGOMA, Australia. Exhibitions include Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2004); “Robert Therrien: Table and Six Chairs,” Public Art Fund, New York (2005); “A New Installation by Robert Therrien,” Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2006); Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2007); “Robert Therrien: Works on Paper,” Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2008); “Robert Therrien: Drawings,” Scottish National Gallery of Art, Edinburgh (2010); De Pont Museum, Tilburg, The Netherlands (2011); “Robert Therrien: Selections from the Broad Collection and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,” LACMA, Los Angeles (2011); Albright Knox-Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2013); “Artist Rooms: Robert Therrien,” Tate Modern, London (2009, traveled to National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Tate Liverpool, UK; Metropolitan Arts Center, Belfast, Ireland; and Paxton House, Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK, through 2015); The Contemporary Austin, TX (2015); “Robert Therrien: The Power of the Image,” Denver Art Museum, CO (2016); and “Robert Therrien: Works 1975–1995,” Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London (2016).