Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell

Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell installation view. Image © Conor Smyth

Planning Studio, Chelsea College of Arts, January 2020.
Curated by Carolina Fontes, Conor Smyth, Jiachuan Wang, Yi Wang, Zhe Wu, Han Yan, Shu Zhang and Jiashu Zou – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell is a speculative exhibition proposal on show in the MA Curating and Collection departments Planning Studio, a planning space for displaying research located on the first floor of Block D at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. This project is in response to the Planning Studio project brief which was to work on a speculative proposal for an exhibition at an existing museum or gallery. The work should include gathering data about the proposed gallery such as floor plans, remit of the gallery, history of their shows, visitor statistics etc.

With these details in mind, the group of curators chose to present an exhibition of works by Dan Graham and Larry Bell at the Hauser and Wirth Gallery in Somerset. The group exhibition will explore the influences of and creative difference between the two prolific American artist Larry Bell and Dan Graham. Bell and Graham are connected through an interest in the materials which they use and the influence that both artists had on one another’s work. In the first exhibition looking at the similarities and differences between these two hugely successful artists the curators look to highlight the impact of each artists work on the other’s practices while exploring the divergence in their interpretations. The exhibition features small scale models as well as larger works by both artists with the collection of work presented throughout the gallery spaces and in the gardens surrounding the gallery.

The following is an excerpt from our proposal:

The Planning Studio presents the show Through The Looking Glass, establishing a dialogue between the two contemporary American artists Dan Graham and Larry Bell, focusing on both indoor and outdoor three-dimensional works. This show will take place at Hauser & Wirth’s gallery space in Somerset.

The exhibition presents a selection of the two artists glass sculptural works. Larry Bell and Dan Graham focus on exploring light with the use of glass, angles and perception, showing the boundary between reality and illusion.

Dan Graham’s work is halfway between sculpture and architecture, producing hybrids that are on the edge of both practices. Space and light are linked in the process of observing art, which is highlighted in his works. Graham uses steel to express phenomenon, reducing ‘art to an essence in pure realism’. His use of mirrors, glasses and two-way mirrors makes the materiality of these materials uncertain. The transparency of glass is not only a false representation of reality, but also a disguise of contradiction, which deconstructs surveillance but also creates an illusion.

Larry Bell’s works are mainly about experimenting with surface and light, with the purpose of expressing feelings. His work adopts a philosophical stance, ‘examining people’s existence in the world, a kind of primal intuition’. Glass can transmit, reflect, and absorb light, and by occupying his pieces light becomes part of the subject. His use of 90-degree right angles also has a visual influence. The environment moves with the sculpture as the viewer moves around the work. Not only in reflection, but in that place between reflection, transmission and perception. The gradient light affecting aspects of the pieces are a metaphor for reality. His use of glass is the intuitive decision to create illusion, which always relates to the question: what is real and what is not?

We believe Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset gallery space is a perfect location for this project due to its facilities, which suit our need to present outdoor artworks, but also due to its idyllic location, distant from urban hustle, which attributes to this exhibition a privileged feature of exclusivity. Since the works of Dan Graham and Larry Bellemphasisethe relationship among people, space and nature, we believe this is the ideal space to encourage reflection and interaction with these artworks.

Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell installation view. Image © Conor Smyth