Spotlight Series

Spotlight: Chicago Artist Writers

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some of the commendable arts publications that we regularly read, and this week we’re spending some time with Chicago Artist Writers. In “The Geese at Argonne: On Dan Graham’s Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne,” artist and writer Yuri Stone discusses a road trip to visit a forgotten Dan Graham sculpture on the campus of the Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago. Stone’s essay considers minimalism in the context of postwar science and industry, and the particular situation that the pavilion awkwardly occupies today. The essay is a moving eulogy to a neglected artwork, and was originally published on November 22, 2016.

Dan Graham, Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne (detail), 1982; Photograph by the writer, 2015

Dan Graham. Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne (detail), 1982. Photo: Yuri Stone, 2015.

Marie retired from the Argonne National Laboratory a number of years before our visit but stays busy by hosting tours of the facilities. When we arrived, she greeted us with enthusiasm. She was joined by her husband, Robert, a current employee of Argonne, and they were both eager to share the anomaly on campus. We weren’t there to tour the nanoparticle lab or the electrical energy storage grid. We asked Marie how often someone requests a visit to the Dan Graham pavilion. She replied without hesitation, “Literally never.”

There isn’t a trace of Graham’s first outdoor site-specific sculpture, installed in 1982, on the Argonne National Laboratory website. I first heard about the piece when I was working at the Renaissance Society, where we had shown the Model for Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne (1978-81) in his solo exhibition Selected Works in 1981 and had published an accompanying catalog. The Art Institute of Chicago purchased the model and the Pavilion/Sculpture for Argonne had been realized at the federal facility shortly after the exhibition in 1982. I was always curious. I emailed tours@anl.gov, just asking for a photo or information about the sculpture and its location on the Laboratory campus. I connected with an employee from the Communications, Education, and Public Affairs Department who sent a very direct, and simple email, “The pavilion is located near our cafeteria. If you would like a better photo, I would be happy to send one to you,” with an attached PDF of an Argonne “internal publication” from 1982. After several further email exchanges over the course of two weeks, and the agreement of Marie to meet us during off-hours, the tour was booked for a Sunday evening in early August. By then a particular tone had been set by the employee asking if I was a U.S. citizen, for my age, if I had a valid driver’s license, and what state I was from since “there are five jurisdictions where [a] driver’s license is not accepted at a federal facility.” The last email was concluded with a final requirement, “Everyone must wear flat, closed-toe shoes.”

Read the full essay here.

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