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Polaroid Drawings (book)

16 January – 23 February 1997
Guest curated by Gregory Salzman

Born in 1947, Los Angeles artist Robert Therrien belongs to a generation of artists whose imaginations were galvanized by Minimalism and its sources in the work of Brancusi, Duchamp and Mondrian, but also by the irreverence of Pop art. In the mid to late 1960s this emerging generation of artists began seeking ways to mediate between popular and high-brow culture, and to bridge the ideological differences between Pop and Minimalism. Their achievement has been to combine the methodological rigour and attentiveness of the art of their immediate predecessors with a renewed emphasis on intuition and sentiment.

Through the balance of its classical emphasis on formal articulation, repetition, and variation, and a romantic interest in spontaneity and feeling, Therrien's work mediates between art's public and private functions and spaces. Contemporary life has witnessed the dismantling and disappearance of public space as well as the erosion of privacy. Both spheres have suffered from massive over-rationalization. Therrien's art reclaims private space and the inner fantasy life of the individual, where fantasy and interiority are not a refuge from public life but the necessary preconditions for its resuscitation.

In this age of surplus, disposable information, one of the pressing demands on art is to preserve the condition of privacy as a necessary space for spiritual reflection and concentration. How to reconcile the recreational resources of fantasy and the reality principle, how to harness the energies of the past (including childhood) to the needs of the present, how to restore the primacy of compassion and genuine feeling to the economically driven public world, to a culture drunk on global mediation and technical prowess-these concerns, perhaps, epitomize Therrien's poetic quest. Through its integration of qualities of feminine nurture, beauty, and structural clarity and economy, Therrien's art mediates between the demands of public and domestic life, and provides a harmonizing alternative to the manifold schisms and polarizations of belief that pervade the art and politics of our times and our culture.

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of The Canada Council and Mr. Louis L. Odette.
Art Gallery of York University | Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street | Toronto ON M3J 1P3 | agyu [at]