Chicago USA, lives and works in Los Angeles
Born in Chicago, Robert Therrien grew up in San Francisco and moved to Los Angeles in 1971 where he still lives and works. In the early 1980s he became known for making objects with simple recognizable shapes such as pitchers, tables and doors, created in a variety of media including copper, wood and bronze. He is renowned for transforming everyday things into extraordinary sculptures, often by increasing their scale many times. These larger than life works suggest a world of fairy tales and childhood games and provoke an interaction between the viewer, the object and the environment.
Therrien’s work has often been associated with Pop art. It has also been related to the legacy of Surrealism in the evocation of the uncanny and extraordinary. However, his ability to reveal surprising perspectives and to convey an array of moods, from the haunting to the playful, defy such definitions and he remains one of the most compelling artists working today.
Aside from their physical impact, the sculptures also have an instinctive one. Therrien chooses his motifs not only on the basis of their formal qualities, but also for their associative effects. Because of their dimensions, the various versions of No Title (Table and Chairs) will cause many to recall a time when the space under a table was still big enough to be a hiding place. Another important instrument, in addition to the size, is the anonymous design of the objects that serve as Therrien's point of departure. Each viewer undergoes his own instinctive recognition of the folding table and chairs, the oil can, the pans and the soup plates that have been stacked high, in No Title (Stacked Plates), into an unsteady-looking tower. In Therrien's sculptures they are familiar, yet puzzling and alienating at the same time.
Not only in the sculptures, but in his drawings as well, Therrien manages to give a special magic to the commonplace; and once again, scale plays an important role. But in his works on paper, for which he uses a variety of materials and techniques, he concentrates on small things. As tiny and insignificant as the motifs may be, they dominate the image surface. These motifs seem to have their origins in the world of comic strips and have been reduced to their most succinct form. Like the motifs of his sculptures,the little demons, the face of a baby, a small head and pointing hand, a gallows, bow or small clouds of smoke in the drawings are part of a collective memory. The atmosphere is playful and lighthearted, with a touch of humor and nostalgia, and occasionally a more ominous undercurrent.
By making use of principles such as enlargement, reduction and abstraction, Therrien opens the door to extraordinary perspectives. He investigates man's connection with the things around him and invites the viewer to reconsider his ties to the commonplace.