Robert Therrien

Sculptures and drawings

29 Jan - 15 May 2011
work in collection

Never before has the work of Robert Therrien (Chicago, 1947) been shown in the Netherlands. De Pont is now dedicating a major exhibition to the sculptures and drawings of this American artist, who has been working in Los Angeles since the early 1980s. Therrien focuses on the commonplace. In his art we see very ordinary, often household objects acquire  a dimension that makes them literally and figuratively inescapable.

The exhibition comprises eleven large sculptures and installations, as well as about forty works on paper. These works on paper date from the period 1991-2009. With the sculptures, emphasis has been placed on his work from recent years. The new installation Transparent Room will be shown for the first time in this exhibition.

Over the past years Robert Therrien has earned a reputation with his monumental sculptures and installations. In 1994 he surprised the art world with a sculpture which took the shape of a table and chairs. In terms of material and form, Under the Table corresponds to the model down to the smallest details, but in scale the sculpture differs dramatically. The dining-room furniture of darkly varnished wood has assumed such proportions that an adult can walk beneath the table without bumping his head on it. Since that time Therrien has also subjected plates, folding metal tables and chairs, an oil can and a disc cart to this type of metamorphosis. In his works, an increase in scale is used as a means to heighten the experience of one's own body and bring about interaction between the viewer, the artwork and the surroundings.

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, inNo 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.