April 29 – November 2, 2014 (weather permitting)
Installation Location: The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden
American artist Dan Graham (born 1942, Urbana, Illinois) will create a site-specific installation atop The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden—the second in a new series of commissions for the outdoor site. Comprising curves of steel and two-way mirrored glass between ivy hedgerows, Graham’s structure is part garden maze, part modernist skyscraper façade. Set within a specially engineered terrain designed in collaboration with the Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt (born 1957, Balzers, Liechtenstein), the work—titled Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout—will be both transparent and reflective, creating a changing and visually complex environment for visitors. The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt will be on view from April 29 through November 2, 2014 (weather permitting). A variety of education programs will also take place in conjunction with the exhibition.
For the past 50 years Graham has engaged his interest in architecture and the way it structures public space through a multidisciplinary practice that includes writing, photography, video, performance, and—beginning in the 1970s—sculptural environments of mirrored glass and metal. He calls these hybrid structures “pavilions” after the ornamental buildings that decorate 17th- and 18th-century formal gardens—architectural fantasies inspired by the ruins of classical antiquity.
Graham’s pavilions similarly invite romance or play, but their forms and materials have a more contemporary source: the gleaming glass facades of modern office towers. For the artist, the mirrored cladding of a corporate headquarters symbolizes economic power and sleek efficiency; it also provides a certain camouflage, reflecting the world around it as it shields what happens inside from prying eyes.
With this signature material, Graham’s pavilions also transform observers of the work into performers within it, and, through the sight of their own reflections, make them acutely aware of their own viewership.
The artist’s pavilions likewise respond to their specific sites. The Museum’s Roof Garden, where the idyllic expanse of Central Park confronts the tall buildings of midtown Manhattan, is both of the city and at a certain remove from it. The evergreen plantings that edge the parapets also reminded Graham of the shrubbery that often demarcates private property lines in the New Jersey suburbs of his youth. Graham’s collaboration with Günther Vogt further illuminates the site’s multilayered references—historic gardens, public parks, contemporary corporate architecture, and the suburban lawn—as its pavilion engages the viewer in a historic and complex mirror-play. For Vogt, landscape architecture is a heterogeneous field that unites different aspects of design with natural and social sciences.
“We are thrilled to present this extraordinary new commission,” stated Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum. “For decades, Dan Graham has created work that challenges viewers to think in new and thought-provoking ways about the streets and cities they traverse every day. In his reimagining of the Met’s roof, visitors will discover a picturesque landscape that is at once unexpected and familiar.”
Born in Urbana, Illinois, and raised in Winfield Township, New Jersey, Dan Graham lives and works in New York City. Graham has been investigating the relationship between architectural environments and those who inhabit them since the late 1960s. His diverse practice, which encompasses writing, photography, video, performance, and the creation of sculptural environments, has influenced generations of artists. Graham’s glass pavilions have been realized in sites worldwide, particularly in Europe. The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt is the artist’s first major site-specific commission in New York City since his 1991 installation, Dan Graham: Rooftop Urban Park Project at Dia Center for the Arts. Graham has had retrospective exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Walker Art Center (2009–10); Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin (2006); Museu Serralves, Porto (2001); Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1997); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1993); Kunsthalle Berne (1983); and the Renaissance Society, University of Chicago (1981). He has participated in Documenta 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 (1972, 1977, 1982, 1992, and 1997). Among the numerous awards he has received are the Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award, Zurich (1992), and the French Vermeil Medal, Paris (2001). He also was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, in 2010.
“What Dan creates is a new form of quixotic landscape architecture that combines nature and community within a city environment,” said Sheena Wagstaff, the Museum’s Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art. “It is work that draws paradoxically on formal 18th-century Northern European gardens, while also referencing the glossy sleekness of corporate skyscrapers and the American suburban vernacular.”
Over the past 10 years, Günther Vogt of Vogt Landscape Architects, Zurich, has designed a wide variety of public and private outdoor spaces in Switzerland and Europe. These include the grounds of the Allianz Arena in Munich; the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Tate Modern, and the Olympic Village in London; and the FIFA headquarters and Masoala Rain Forest Hall in Zurich. Vogt is professor of landscape architecture at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zurich and on the faculty of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. His survey Miniature and Panorama: Vogt Landscape Architects, Projects, 2000–2012 was published in 2012 by Lars Müller, Zurich.
Several other related projects by Dan Graham will be on view in the Museum’s modern and contemporary art galleries (Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for Modern and Contemporary Art, Second Floor, Galleries 917 & 918, Installation Dates: April 28–November 2, 2014) to complement the artist’s Roof Garden installation. The works include videos, photographs, and another, smaller pavilion—Triangular Solid with Circular Cut-Outs, Variation K (2011–14).
Triangular Solid with Circular Cut-Outs uses the familiar two-way mirrored glass of the skyscraper in an intimate, gazebo-type structure. Its form relates to both the moon gates of traditional Chinese gardens—round apertures designed to frame a particular view—and the mirrored walls of Rococo pavilions that reflect and amplify the effects of sunlight or candlelight. Also on display is a model of the triangular glass pavilion Double Exposure—Graham’s 1995 proposal for an exhibition in Germany, which was installed at the Serralves Museum in Portugal in 2003. One side of Double Exposure is a color transparency of the landscape directly outside. From inside the pavilion, the viewer confronts a curious doubling of vision that references, in part, 19th-century panoramas and other precursors of modern cinema. The videos on view explore other pavilions, and the photographs—mainly snapshots taken when Graham revisited the New Jersey suburbs of his youth—capture the extraordinary breadth of the artist’s interests.
In conjunction with the installation, the second in a new series of books considering the annual Roof Garden projects has been published. The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt features an essay by Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator, and an interview with the artist by Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman, both of the Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. The 64-page paperback is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press ($9.95).
The Roof Garden Commission: Dan Graham with Günther Vogt and its publication were conceived by Sheena Wagstaff and curated by Ian Alteveer, in consultation with the artist. The exhibition is made possible by Bloomberg, with additional support provided by Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.
The installation will be featured on the Metropolitan Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org.
Sandwiches, snacks, dessert, and beverage service—including espresso, cappuccino, iced tea, soft drinks, wine, and beer—will be available at the Roof Garden Café daily from 10:00 a.m. until closing, as weather permits. A martini bar will also be open on the Roof Garden on Friday and Saturday evenings (5:30–8:00 p.m.).