Paul Graham Examines Universal Values through Double Rainbows, Pawn Shops, and Peaceful Sleep

Artsy Editorial
Sep 4, 2014 4:37PM

British photographer Paul Graham has a rigorous eye for quotidian detail. While furthering the traditions of photographers who have mastered the practice of capturing scenes from everyday life—including Walker Evans, William Eggleston, and Bernd and Hilla Becher—he works in a style uniquely his own. Graham’s practice—once described as “rejecting the search for the ‘great’ picture, with its tendency to compress life into neat rectangles” by curator and museum director Sean Rainbird—is in the spotlight this fall as Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery join forces to feature Graham’s latest body of work in “Does Yellow Run Forever?” This vibrant exhibition of nearly 20 large-scale color photographs is accompanied and enriched by the release of a major monograph on the artist.

Graham established his reputation through documentary-like color photographs of exurban cityscapes in contemporary Britain. Early series in Britain, including “A1—The Great North Road” (1981-82), now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, “Beyond Caring (1984-85),” and “Troubled Land,” (1984-86), exemplified his interest in social themes and in traces of history within the everyday. These concerns informed Graham’s later projects in Northern Ireland (where he worked three decades, through The Troubles), Europe (after the fall of the Berlin Wall), Japan, and the United States. 

In his new work—juxtaposing images of double rainbows in Ireland, New York streets dotted with pawn shops, and his partner, Senami, while curled up in bed—Graham brings his nuanced approach from the scale of the social into more intimate dimensions. Examining materialism, romance, and spirituality, this photographic discourse is a study on contemporary society's universal values and the unending human tendency to pursue a sense of fulfillment. Captured in locations around the world, printed at different scales, and now hung at varying heights throughout the gallery—a methodical installation reflecting a hierarchy of values— “Does Yellow Run Forever?” strings together quiet scenes of hope, peaceful respite, and the threat of disappointment, to ultimately imbue the fleeting with due gravity.

“Does Yellow Run Forever” is on view at 510 West 25th Street, New York, Sept. 4th–Oct. 4, 2014.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019