Eric Kahn
Mar 8, 2014 11:10PM

Robert Therrien/ Gagosian Gallery

January 11-February 15, 2014

456 North Camden Drive

Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Therrien’s Dull Brilliance


Although it’s only March 2014, I predict the Robert Therrien exhibition held at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills (01/11/14-02/15/14) will be the stand out exhibition in Los Angeles during the 2014 exhibition cycle. Therrien’s work is simultaneously astounding and familiar, a unique and precise sensibility. Walking into the Gagosian gallery Therrien’s two pieces produce a presence that is undeniable, haptic and sublime. Richard Meier’s space performs as more than a foil for Therrien’s pieces, producing scalar and subtle formal affiliations between No Title (Folding table and chairs, green), and No title (Cloud with faucets), 2013
. Meier’s slot/ribbon window aligns with Cloud with faucets, while the tabletop aligns with the gallery mezzanine projected wall; chairs lean informally against the main gallery-demising wall. The circulation incline/ramp that joins the two offset Gagosian rooms generates an oblique line that picks up the array of bent metal tubes comprising Folding table and chairs.


The day I was there an animated woman in dull camo­green pants and pink gym shoes stood enraptured beneath the makeshift canopy of folding table posing for a ten second instagram video, the unadulterated joy she experienced reminds us that the moment of art is a complex trigger sparking the contingent and the transformative producing a deeply affecting mood and aesthetic experience. Mind you this human display and reaction was produced by Therrien’s deadpan translation (in the case of Folding table and chairs, green). Therrien’s project deployed by the quotidian object-type—ubiquitous and unremarkable—produces a unique one of a kind object and by extension becomes an operative definition of art itself


Like the scaled objects/sculptures produced by Claes Oldenburg and Jeff Koons (many fabricated at Carlson and Company) the process of its fabrication are expressly hidden. While Oldenberg and Koons develop high gloss, mirrored surfaces with imperfections obsessively engineered out of the final piece, Therrien develops—with equal obsession—Ruscha-like profane surfaces as fictitious forensic history; the muse of non-art objects with their previous role and use remain and haunt—as Jacques Derrida suggested—forever recorded and embedded in Folding table. Their ‘useless status’ triggers a particular moment in which Art presences forward and industrial object-type recedes.


Although one can speculate on Therrien’s rich source material; issues of industrial design, Fordian factory production, ubiquity of everyday products, the shear banality of twentieth century mechanical production his work overcomes any ‘pure citations’ of the above source material becoming embodied experience in and of itself. Therrien’s work, seen in the diverse ecology of global contemporary art practice is one that clearly supports my initial prediction and rhetorical claim regarding the importance of Therrien’s Gagosian exhibition in a mode both characteristic and proper to Therrien’s unique artistic praxis.


—Eric Kahn, 2014.

Photo by Josh White

Eric Kahn