zurich

Rodney Graham, The Avid Reader 1949, 2011, three painted aluminum light boxes with transmounted chromogenic transparencies, overall 9' 11 5/8“ x 18' 2 3/4” x 7".

Rodney Graham

Hauser & Wirth | Zurich

Rodney Graham, The Avid Reader 1949, 2011, three painted aluminum light boxes with transmounted chromogenic transparencies, overall 9' 11 5/8“ x 18' 2 3/4” x 7".

Because he is a sort of straight-faced comedian, a Buster Keaton of Conceptualism, it’s all too easy to make Rodney Graham sound more serious than he really is. True, he started out as an intensely literary artist, “a kind of co-author” (as Julian Heynen recently put it), making works using texts by Georg Büchner, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Allan Poe, and others as raw material. As Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev once said, Graham “annihilates literature” with these pieces—but he does so in a playful way and with great refinement. Likewise, his “reading machines”—optical devices, such as the 1993 Reading Machine for Lenz, that allow us to see text as much as to read it—make light of our earnest desire for meaning.

This was especially evident in the film installation in Graham’s recent show in Zurich. The footage used in The Green Cinematograph (Programme 1: Pipe Smoker and

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