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Robert Therrien

U.S. artist Robert Therrien (1947-2019) drew inspiration from everyday objects to create work that often generates a chuckle from the viewer. A notably exaggerated element in much of Therrien’s sculpture is scale. Therrien often enlarged objects—such as chairs—from human scale to an enormous size, leaving the viewer feeling like Alice shrunken in Wonderland. In fact, much of the artist’s work re-creates the perspective of a small child in relation to common household items, such as large stacked plates that dwarf the viewer. Therrien’s perhaps most celebrated example of this effect is Under the Table (1994), an enormous wooden kitchen table and four chairs that measure nearly 10 feet tall. While standing under the table, viewers feel like they’re in the home of a giant.

Along with plates, tables, and chairs, the snowman is an often-repeated figure in Therrien’s work, a happy reminder of a favorite pastime for children in cold environs. Therrien duplicated this familiar image in a multitude of media, from paint to plaster, and in a variety of metals, including bronze, zinc, silver, tin, and nickel. Lannan’s No Title (snowman), from 1987, was commissioned by the Foundation to sit outside its first museum space in tropical Lake Worth, Florida.

Of his repeated imagery the artist said, “Doesn’t every artist choose images from his past? I’m not interested in the subconscious and all that; I don’t note down my dreams. I think I emphasize generational perceptions and values as much as memory. I’m interested in images that are almost clichés.”

Born in 1947 in Chicago, Therrien lived and worked in Los Angeles. He had solo exhibitions at museums both nationally and internationally. These locales include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1991); SITE Santa Fe (2000); the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2007); Tate Liverpool (2011); and The Contemporary Austin (2015).

Art without images