Looking Glasses

A religion of revelation understands God as addressing us from beyond our experience, not apart from it. It helped me to remember that when visiting what may be the most engaging encounter between faith and culture in New York these days.

That would be Dan Graham: Beyond, a retrospective of the contemporary American artist's work at the Whitney Museum of American Art (through October 11). The show includes sculpture, prints, drawings, video, and film installations.

Born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1942, and raised in New Jersey, Graham in 1964 founded and briefly ran the John Daniels Gallery in New York City. It featured conceptual and Minimalist artists, such as Sol Le Witt and Donald Judd. Graham's own first conceptual pieces were for magazines in the mid-1960s.They included cash-register receipts that played deadpan counterpoint to the glossy commercial ads with which they were paired. With similar flat-toned objectivity, Graham sharply criticized the depersonalization and standardization of American life in “Homes for America” (1966-67), a project for Arts Magazine on the large-scale suburban housing developments of the period.

By the early 1970s, Graham began exploring how the human body is perceived in space. One of his most engaging efforts is Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors in Time Delay (1974). Two video monitors face one another across a room in which there are also mirrors at either end. Visitors...

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About the Author


Leo J. O’Donovan, SJ, a frequent contributor to Commonweal, is president emeritus of Georgetown University.