Public Art Registry
1455 Howe Street
Third level tower on Pacific Avenue
Private development
Copper and steel
In place
Privately owned
Description of work
Copper sculpture of the artist as the philosopher, Erasmus, seated backwards on a horse reading a book.
Artist statement
Riding high among the rooftops in Vancouver is an unusual sight that awaits the casual viewer looking upward from street to sky; a 58 inch-high bright copper sculpture of a historical-looking figure riding a lively horse with a ringleted mane, reading a book while sitting backwards. The figure faces the direction of the wind as indicated by the four directionals and the tipped arrow upon which it rests. Closer investigation reveals this to be Rodney Graham’s Weathervane sculpture, which depicts the artist dressed as 16th Century humanist and classical scholar, Erasmus. Absorbed in the solitary activity of reading, the figure is lost in thought and contemplation, not having to worry about where he is going or what lies ahead but, as Rodney Graham puts it, is able to ‘ponder on horseback’ moving forward but also looking backward, to the past. Rodney Graham based the weathervane on a contemporary anecdote which claimed that Erasmus wrote his most well-known work, The Praise of Folly, on horseback during a journey from Italy to England circa 1510. Graham plays on the absurdism inherent in reading a philosophical treatise on human folly whilst riding on a horse backwards and continues his ongoing philosophical enquiry into cyclical and backward movement; like all his work it contains a complex narrative and is brimful of references: literary, philosophical, self-referential and art historical. Rodney Graham’s poetic and humourous weathervane, helpfully indicating wind direction and compass points for any serious traveller who looks upward to contemplate the conditions for travel, continues his preoccupation with un-urgent journeying. Erasmus travels from Italy to England leisurely by horseback, the cowboy meanders gently off the beaten track, the buccaneer’s unknown voyage which has thrown him up on a “treasure island”, and the chemically-induced mental journeys that take place in the artist’s head, remind us even if we are not going anywhere in particular that ‘the trip is the thing’. (Rodney Graham in conversation with Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, October 14th 2008 2 Rodney Graham in Rodney Graham, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 2002 p.109)
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