November 16, 2011–January 21, 2012
Sprüth Magers Berlin is delighted to present an exhibition of work by American artist Robert Therrien. 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. Indeed, the artist would use the term ‘narrative’ in relation to his work, which is often animated and playful, evident from the sculptural work, No Title (Black Cloud), 1995. Reduced to such simple and sinuous forms, No Title (Black Cloud) perfectly illustrates the artist’s interest in comics and cartoons and the menacing quality of the work lies in the unpredictable nature of the cloud. Characteristic of Therrien’s sculptures, No Title (Black Cloud) is displayed in pristine isolation without a frame or a base, generating its own physical space.
The artist began experimenting with scale in the 1990's and the smaller and more private referents of the 1970's and 1980's had given way to drastically magnified subjects destined for the public domain. It is likely that this transition was fuelled by the artist’s use of the Polaroid camera to photograph setups in his studio, blurring the conventions of framing and spatial depth and thus inspiring Therrien to re-imagine the scale of his works. Furthermore, photography provided the opportunity to explore the multiple viewpoints of the sculptures in situ within an enclosed environment in order to find the ‘perfect perspective’.
In addition to scale, the artist’s attention also turned to the functionality of objects and recurrent motifs include tables, chairs, plates and saucepans which derive from a well known repertoire of manufactured goods and furnishing first produced in the early to mid-twentieth century, collected by the artist over the years.
Upon entering Sprüth Magers Berlin, the viewer is at once confronted by the first colossal and fully functional folding chair, conspicuously leaning against the gallery wall. The familiarity of the mass-produced, stainless steel chairs featured in No Title (Folding Chairs, Green), 2008, is instantly counteracted by the uncannily large scale of the works, offering the spectator a new way of seeing familiar forms while, at the same time, creating an unsettling sense of disorientation and dislocation from reality.
The new installation work, Transparent Room, 2010, featured in the main gallery, presents the viewer with yet another fantastical, fictional world. However, unlike Therrien’s earlier work, the found objects housed in the room remain untransformed and life-size. Here, the uncanny sensation experienced by the viewer is provoked by the fact that each individual object is consistently devoid of colour.
Furthermore, although there is a door, one is unable to physically enter the room, reinforcing a disquieting feeling of inaccessibility. The only insight into the artist’s archive of hidden objects is gained from peering through the windows, which are slightly ajar, and therefore, the viewer remains on the threshold between reality and fiction. The array of delicate glass trinkets, the ornate mirror and the abundance of jars and vases vividly demonstrate the artist’s longstanding interest in collecting found objects from the real world with the view that, one day, they will be reinvented into sculpture, creating an unreal world.