Dan Graham

Houses, 1966-1976

In 1965, Dan Graham embarked on a series of photographs of housing projects in the suburbs of New York—more precisely at Bayonne in New Jersey, and on Staten Island, in New York State. The work-cum-article Homes for America was the commentary for these pictures which Graham originally intended to publish in a general public magazine; in the end they would be published in the December-January 1966-67 issue of Arts Magazine. As Dan Graham explained in 1969, “there was a desire to get around the gallery system, and come up with a method of direct understanding, ready to be consumed on the spot”, “art directly ‘informed’ by the information media”. The set of photographs—some fifteen in all—was nevertheless scaled down on the double printed page to make room for the text. In this complex work, which the artist himself described as “hybrid”, “somewhere between abstract self-reference and anthropological or sociological information”, Graham focused on the ideals and shortcomings of a society, and, like many of his works, identified architecture and social custom. In associating philosophical writings about the urban space, the house and the family with photographs which stress the uniform nature of dwellings, in a layout which he described as a “two-dimensional perspectival gridding”, Dan Graham worked on this “‘visual’ passage from one serial order to the next—graphic, then photographic, then linguistic, then ‘abstract’.” In the works acquired by the FRAC Centre, Dan Graham has overlaid two photographs taken from the series (apart from New Housing Project, of 1976), a sort of hybrid version between a work (a simple photo, framed and captioned) and an article. He plays on the contrasts and similarities between photographs in order to criticize the suburban world. So in Housing Row, Bayonne/Trucks, New York, the monotony of the trucks refers to the monotony of row houses and semi-detached homes, all in lines and built to the same model; and he rails against the development of uniform and standardized suburbs. In the second, the artist raises the issue of “taste”: can the bedroom in the show home, with its pictures of fictitious ancestors and its mock antique furniture, perhaps tally with the taste of real people, those same people who purchase such mass-produced homes? Are we not looking at soul-less houses?

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