Jun 18
Robert Therrien, the sculptor who made giant versions of everyday objects, died at age 71.
Robert Therrien. Photo by Clarence Williams/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

Robert Therrien. Photo by Clarence Williams/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

Robert Therrien, the Los Angeles-based artist best known for his monumental recreations of everyday objects like folding chairs and pots, has died at age 71. According to a statement posted on the website of his gallery, Gagosian, he died on Monday. His most recent solo show, at the gallery’s San Francisco space closed just last month, and a review of the exhibition in the San Francisco Chronicle described Therrien as “a 71-year-old little boy, with a practiced hand and a sly knack for visual mischief.”

The San Francisco show was a homecoming of sorts for Therrien, who was born in Chicago in 1947 but moved to Palo Alto with his family as a child. He attended art school in the Bay Area before eventually relocating to Los Angeles, where he earned an MFA from the University of Southern California. His first solo museum exhibition was mounted by Los Angeles’s then-brand new Museum of Contemporary Art, in 1984.

The MOCA show was followed by regular exhibitions at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, as well as a 1991 solo exhibition at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. In recent years, institutions including the Tate Modern, the Denver Art Museum, The Contemporary Austin, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery have devoted exhibitions to Therrien’s work.

In a New York Times profile tied to the 2013 Albright-Knox show, Therrien said of his penchant for blowing up banal objects:

The projects that are blown up in scale are about things that are thought of two dimensionally, and then inserting yourself into it, rather than having an interest in just blowing things up. [. . .] The reason the table became big was because I asked, ‘What if people could walk into an environment like that?’

In 1997, he had his first solo show with Gagosian; last year, the gallery devoted its Frieze New York booth to an installation of his giant folding tables and chairs. In addition to his large-scale replicas of unremarkable objects, his practice was distinguished by intricate sculptural installations, like Red Room (2000–07) , a closet-like space packed with 888 red objects.

In a statement confirming Therrien’s death, Gagosian said:

Time and again, Robert altered our sense of reality by reimagining and reinventing the most commonplace objects in two and three dimensions with an uncanny accuracy. Robert—Bob to his friends—spent most of his time researching and making art at his studio, which grew to be a fabled fixture in downtown Los Angeles and straddled the line between fantasy and reality, like much of his work.