Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien. Photo: Monica Almeida/The New York Times/Redux

 

Through a physical and conceptual remodeling of elements of everyday experience, Robert Therrien (1947–2019) creates new modes of understanding of familiar objects and spaces. Utilizing drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and installation, the artist turns to his immediate surroundings as well as delving into memory both personal and collective to create scenarios that oscillate between the surreal and the commonplace.

 

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Emerging in the late 1970s onto a Los Angeles art scene that was grappling with the legacies of Pop, minimal and conceptual art, Therrien was indebted to some of their formal strategies but interlaced them with a form of narrative that was at odds with the cold, detached stance with which they became associated. Early work utilized memories and images from childhood with simple outlined forms such as a cartoon face, a keyhole, a snowman or a chapel, each represented through drawing or as noticeably handmade sculpted shapes. The stylized form and narrative allusion of drawings such as No title (smoke signal) (1992) exhibit a lightness of touch and can be conceived of as a working out of form for a motif to be executed in three dimensions on various scales. The unending possibility of such images allows them to enter a state of continuous becoming, as they shift between the abstract and the representational.

In the 1990s, when shooting Polaroid close-ups of domestic scenes, such as dishes drying on a rack or the space beneath a table, Therrien’s interest in the engineering of such objects led him to consider them on a large scale. The oversized furniture of No title (Folding table and chairs, green) (2008), for example, allows viewers to walk underneath and around them, thereby experiencing perspectives reminiscent of childhood or cartoons. By creating a seemingly unfathomable world that questions the relationship between the body, space and object, his spatial settings shift from dreamlike fantasy to impending unease. His recurring series of stacked plates teeter with contrapposto danger yet also delight with Looney Tunes-esque playfulness. Even though these motifs are indeed representational, they resist verisimilitude through a shift into abstraction or surrealism, and a distinct alteration of color, scale, and perspective.

Therrien’s studio, where he lived and worked, is central to his understanding of space. Many of his works that ruminate on domestic scale are testament to his capacity for close observation derived from his studio, which was even recreated en masse within an institutional space. Further interpretations of the domestic environment such as No title (Transparent Room) (2010) offer a mysterious and weighty greenhouse-like dwelling containing only transparent and translucent objects, as though a home for a transparent person or obsessive collector of clear items. Similarly, Red Room (2000–07) fills a deep cupboard with hundreds of found red objects, a meticulously assembled monochrome of the everyday peeped at through split Dutch doors, another recurring motif. Here, and throughout his practice, there is the offer of transformation and the opportunity to experience a different universe, drawn from a deeply personal understanding of space and memory.

 

Works
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008
Painted steel, aluminum, and fabric
264.2 × 457.2 × 457.2 cm
104 × 180 × 180 inches

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Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (mini stacked pots and pans II), 2003

Robert Therrien
No title (mini stacked pots and pans II), 2003
Stainless steel and plastic
48.3 × 25.4 cm
19 × 10 inches

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (Transparent Room), 2010

Robert Therrien
No title (Transparent Room), 2010
Steel, glass, plastic
369.6 × 274.3 × 396.2 cm
145 1/2 × 108 × 156 inches

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
Red Room, 2000–07

Robert Therrien
Red Room, 2000–07
888 red objects, housed in a closet with Dutch doors
244 × 203 × 258 cm
96 × 80 × 101 5/8 inches

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Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (Cloud), 1995

Robert Therrien
No title (Cloud), 1995
Mixed media on plastic
121.9 × 61 × 55.9 cm
48 × 24 × 22 inches

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (smoke signal), 1992

Robert Therrien
No title (smoke signal), 1992
Bleach and graphite on paper
25.4 × 19.1 cm

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (under the table), 2003

Robert Therrien
No title (under the table), 2003
Wood, plastic, enamel, metal
Dimensions variable

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (oil can), 2003

Robert Therrien
No title (oil can), 2003
Stainless steel
45.7 × ø 10.1 cm

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (dishrack), 2004

Robert Therrien
No title (dishrack), 2004
Polaroid photograph
11.4 × 8.9 cm
4 1/2 × 3 1/2 inches

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Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (black/white stacked plates), 1995

Robert Therrien
No title (black/white stacked plates), 1995
Watercolor and graphite on etching on paper
45 1/2 × 35 1/2 inches

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (devil thinking of running), 1999

Robert Therrien
No title (devil thinking of running), 1999
Silkscreen, ink and bleach on paper
43.2 × 41.3 cm
17 × 16 1/4 inches

Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien
No title (Box edition), 2011

Robert Therrien
No title (Box edition), 2011
Mixed media
41.6 × 33.3 × 11.4 cm
16 3/8 × 13 1/8 × 4 1/2 inches

Details
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008
Painted steel, aluminum, and fabric
264.2 × 457.2 × 457.2 cm
104 × 180 × 180 inches

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008 (detail)

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008 (detail)

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008 (detail)

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2008
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2011 (detail)

Robert Therrien
No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), 2011
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (mini stacked pots and pans II), 2003
Stainless steel and plastic
48.3 × 25.4 cm
19 × 10 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (mini stacked pots and pans II), 2003
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (Transparent Room), 2010
Steel, glass, plastic
369.6 × 274.3 × 396.2 cm
145 1/2 × 108 × 156 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (Transparent Room), 2010
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
Red Room, 2000–07
888 red objects, housed in a closet with Dutch doors
244 × 203 × 258 cm
96 × 80 × 101 5/8 inches

Robert Therrien
Red Room, 2000–07
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
Red Room, 2000–07 (detail)

Robert Therrien
Red Room, 2000–07
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (Cloud), 1995
Mixed media on plastic
121.9 × 61 × 55.9 cm
48 × 24 × 22 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (Cloud), 1995
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (smoke signal), 1992
Bleach and graphite on paper
25.4 × 19.1 cm

Robert Therrien
No title (smoke signal), 1992
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (under the table), 2003
Wood, plastic, enamel, metal
Dimensions variable

Robert Therrien
No title (under the table), 2003
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (oil can), 2003
Stainless steel
45.7 × ø 10.1 cm

Robert Therrien
No title (oil can), 2003
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (dishrack), 2004
Polaroid photograph
11.4 × 8.9 cm
4 1/2 × 3 1/2 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (dishrack), 2004
Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (dishrack), 2004 (detail)

Robert Therrien
No title (dishrack), 2004
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (black/white stacked plates), 1995
Watercolor and graphite on etching on paper
45 1/2 × 35 1/2 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (black/white stacked plates), 1995
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (devil thinking of running), 1999
Silkscreen, ink and bleach on paper
43.2 × 41.3 cm
17 × 16 1/4 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (devil thinking of running), 1999
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
No title (Box edition), 2011
Mixed media
41.6 × 33.3 × 11.4 cm
16 3/8 × 13 1/8 × 4 1/2 inches

Robert Therrien
No title (Box edition), 2011
Details
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Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
November 16, 2011–January 21, 2012
Berlin

The artist’s second exhibition at the Berlin gallery will feature a selection of seminal sculptures and will include a major new installation work entitled Transparent Room, 2010.

In the early 1980's, Robert Therrien became known for transforming simple, generic objects from his own environment into sculpture using a variety of media including copper, wood and bronze. While the depicted objects made from templates were ‘universal’ and recognizable to all, the subject matter of Therrien’s work often derived from personal childhood memories such as the nostalgic Dutch doors of his grandparents’ house to a lonely coffin evoking early deaths in his family, all of which were reinvented into concrete form.

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Robert Therrien
Works on paper
May 2–June 20, 2009
Berlin

Therrien’s works on paper are often designated as drawings, yet they encompass and sometimes fuse together a range of media, including drawing, printing, painting, collage and photography. They are largely characterised by presenting recurrent motifs as simple yet striking forms, and allowing them to float unanchored within the surface of the paper. Demonstrating Therrien’s longstanding interest in cartoons and graphic visual culture, his images are defined by a softness of line and an appealing vibrancy which engage and intrigue the viewer, as they rest without context but are nonetheless curiously animated.

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Robert Therrien
Robert Therrien

Uneasy Angel / Imagine Los Angeles
Doug Aitken, John Baldessari, Patterson Beckwith, Lecia Dole-Recio, Jack Goldstein, Richard Hawkins, Patrick Hill, Sister Corita Kent, Norman M. Klein, Barbara Kruger, David Lamelas, John McCracken, Matthew Monahan, Lari Pittman, Sterling Ruby, Allen Ruppersberg, Lara Schnitger, Kim Schoenstadt, Paul Sietsema, Catherine Sullivan, Robert Therrien, Pae White
curated by Johannes Fricke Waldthausen
September 14–November 3, 2007
Munich

Uneasy Angel / Imagine Los Angeles is a thematic exhibition comprising the creative production of contemporary artists, writers, and filmmakers living and working in Los Angeles. In light of Umberto Eco’s and Jean Baudrillard’s notion of hyperreality, the exhibition perceives Los Angeles as just such a place—with unclear boundaries separating reality and the imaginary.

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Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien
curated by Anthony d'Offay
February 11–April 3, 2004
London

This exhibition, which has been curated and installed by Anthony d’Offay, includes a number of major sculptures and a selection of drawings from the last ten years. Visitors to a Robert Therrien exhibition are immediately aware of entering a personal world, and above all a world of the unexpected. They are confronted by shapes and objects both familiar and strange. It is a world of deceptively childish charm and logic, where ideas can be literally translated into reality. Outward calm hints at dramatic possibilities. Sometimes inanimate things can become strikingly animated. Familiar shapes and substances change. Soft and light become hard and heavy and size seems out of control.

Press

Sculptor transformed the mundane into monumental works
The New York Times, article by Richard Sandomir, June 27, 2019

Robert Therrien, Parasol Unit, London: ‘Enchanting’
Financial Times, article by Jackie Wullschlager, October 7, 2016

Now Showing: Robert Therrien: ‘Works 1975–1995’
Elephant, October 6, 2016

Robert Therrien: Relationship to Minimalism
Aesthetica Magazine, September 19, 2016

If Gulliver Were a Conceptualist …
The New York Times, article by Blake Gopnik, July 12, 2013

Kunstmuseum Basel Presents today Robert Therrien – Works on Paper
Art Daily

Robert Therrien
Frieze, article by Carmine Iannaccone, June 7, 2000

Biography

Robert Therrien (1947–2019). Selected solo exhibitions include Tate Modern (2018), Parasol Unit, London (2016), MAC Birmingham (2014), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2013), the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Los Angeles (2012), Tate Liverpool, Museum De Pont, Tilburg (both 2011), the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2010), Kunstmuseum, Basel (2008), Museum of Contemporary Arts, San Diego (2007), Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2000), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1988) and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984). Selected group exhibitions include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2017), Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis (2012), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2010), The Broad Art Museum at LACMA, Los Angeles (2008), MoMA, New York (2007), Museum of Fine Art, Boston (2001, 1999), Tate Modern, London (2000), Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (both 2000), The Hayward Gallery, London (1998), The White House, Washington (1994) and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1992). He participated in the 46th Venice Biennale (1984). 

Public Collections
Eli Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Dallas Museum of Art
Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY
Fondacio "La Caixa", Barcelona
French National Collection, Paris
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, MI
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM
List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Cambridge, MA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Musée National d'art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Museo Cantonale d'Arte - Lugano
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Oostende, Belgium
Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Harbor, CA
Panza di Biumo Collection, Varese
Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane
Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent
Tate, London
The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI
The Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, University of California, Los Angeles
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA
The Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library
University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York