We join the art community in mourning the passing of artist Rodney Graham, who died on October 22, 2022. Born in 1949 in Abbotsford, just outside of Vancouver where he lived and worked, Rodney Graham is one of the most celebrated artists in the history of Canadian art. His work traverses a wide and diverse area of knowledge from psychoanalysis to music, from the poetics of Mallarme to contemporary cinema. His art is known for its rigorous conceptual architecture and dazzling interior logic. Among his recurring concerns are the camera and modern technologies of picture-making and notions of historical modes of self-representation. Graham is part of a generation of Vancouver artists—including Ken Lum, Stan Douglas, Ian Wallace and Jeff Wall, some of whom he played with in the punk band U-J3RK5—who established the city’s reputation for photo-conceptualism.
At the Belkin, we were fortunate to work with Graham on numerous occasions, including the 1996 exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of York University and The Renaissance Society that centred around two large time-based music installations, School of Velocity and Parsifal, which saw students from the UBC School of Music performing sections of the artist’s 39-billion-year score throughout the course of the show. As part of its 2014 exhibition of Graham’s work, the Belkin showed Torqued Chandelier Release (2005), the film that inspired the artist’s Spinning Chandelier (2019), which is now suspended beneath the Granville Street Bridge. As part of this same exhibition, Graham’s public art work Millennial Time Machine (2003) was rolled across UBC campus into the gallery to train its camera obscura lens on a palm tree instead of the giant sequoia on which it normally focuses. Graham’s words to describe this itinerant camera obscura – “a pre-figuration of the cinema” – give us pause at this time: “To realize this ‘philosophical toy’ in a post-cinema age is to fabricate a kind of time machine in which the spectators, looking forward, may see backwards and upside-down, that which is forever receding behind them.”
We share our best thoughts with his family and community.