If you want to find the truth in something, take it apart piece by piece, then put it back together with the detail of a forensic scientist.
Working across mediums and disciplines, Douglas Gordon investigates moral and ethical questions, mental and physical states, as well as collective memory and selfhood. Using literature, folklore, and iconic Hollywood films in addition to his own footage, drawings, and writings, he distorts time and language in order to disorient and challenge.
Gordon was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and studied sculpture and environmental art at the Glasgow School of Art (1984–88). After graduating, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, London (1988–90), where he began to more deeply explore his interests in cinema and film. In 1990 he returned to Glasgow and became involved with Transmission Gallery, an artist-run space that hosted exhibitions and served as a studio and social hub. Two years later Gordon presented 24 Hour Psycho (1993) at Tramway, Glasgow. The work extends the duration of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960) from its original 110 minutes to 24 hours; the manipulated footage was played on a large hanging screen in a dark room, which allowed visitors to view the projection from the front or the back.
In the mid-1990s Gordon moved to Cologne, Germany, where he developed From God to Nothing (1996), a text piece spanning four walls; Three Inches Black (1997), a series of photographs in which three-inches of a finger are tattooed black—the subtext in this case being that three inches is the vital length a blade would need to be to inflict a fatal wound; and Between Darkness and Light (after William Blake) (1997), a large-scale video installation that pairs a film about divine revelation with another about satanic possession.
Many have attributed Gordon’s ongoing engagement with opposites to his interest in Scottish literary history, in which the tension between good and evil is a predominant theme. In Tale of a Justified Sinner (1995) he makes direct reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by adapting scenes from a 1932 film version of the story. The scenes are mirrored and slowed down, and switch back and forth between positive and negative in order to emphasize the character’s shifting personalities. In Déjà-Vu (2000), composed of footage from Rudolph Maté’s noir D.O.A. (1949), the protagonist shifts between life and death through a series of overlapping flashbacks and temporal divergences.
In 2000 Gordon had his first survey exhibition in the United Kingdom, Black Spot, at Tate Liverpool. The show brought together major works, displayed in a sprawling configuration devised by the artist, that spread from the museum’s top floor to the freight elevator to a location outside. In the following years, Pretty much every film or video work from about 1992 until now, a nearly comprehensive exhibition of Gordon’s film and video work, was shown in various international locations, including the British School at Rome; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. A retrospective of Gordon’s work opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2006, presenting thirteen significant films; and Pretty much every word written, spoken, heard, overheard from 1989 . . . , an installation of more than eighty text-based works, opened at Tate Britain, London, in 2010. Two years later Gordon was named a Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic.
Themes of identity, the image of the self, portraits, and mortality continue in Gordon’s more recent sculptures, text works, and film and video works. When the Scottish National Portrait Gallery invited him to create a portrait work for the International Festival in 2017, his response was to make a doppelgänger of their celebrated marble statue of the iconic Scottish poet Robert Burns. Black Burns (2017) is an exact replica of the statue in black marble (instead of white Carrara), which Gordon shattered into a few pieces and placed at the foot of the Victorian original. In a related series of sculptures, Gordon depicted parts of his hands and forearms in embracing positions that can be read as either innocent or sinister, expressing the psychological battles at play within an individual.
I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person (2016), a filmic portrait of Jonas Mekas, godfather of American avant-garde cinema, premiered at Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel in 2017. The following year, Gordon was commissioned to create a work for the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road, London. In Non-Stop (2018) Gordon’s eye opens and closes slowly, the retina reflecting a series of single words extracted from signs, names, and places around the Soho area, where he lived in the late 1980s. The eye thus seems to be reflecting, literally and metaphorically, on the Soho that was once known for its nightlife, media culture, grass roots music venues, and underground performance.
Extended through February 3, 2018
November 14, 2017–February 3, 2018
West 21st Street, New York
I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person
October 3–7, 2017
Britannia Street, London
November 11–December 23, 2016
December 11, 2014–January 17, 2015
Park & 75, New York
The End of Civilisation
September 8–October 13, 2012
West 21st Street, New York
February 9–March 26, 2011
Britannia Street, London
self-portrait of you + me, after the factory
October 31–December 15, 2007
980 Madison Avenue, New York
Self-Portraits of You + Me (Bond Girls)
October 9–November 18, 2006
Britannia Street, London
Katrina Brown discusses the importance of Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho (1993) and some of the films that followed, touching on threads that run throughout the artist’s career.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
Douglas Gordon: I had nowhere to go
Featuring an extensive interview with Douglas Gordon on the process of making his 2016 film I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person, this video, produced by Berlin Art Link, includes clips of Jonas Mekas and revealing anecdotes about the creation of the film.
Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember
Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember’s installation As close as you can for as long as it lasts, presented during Elevation 1049: Avalanche in Gstaad, Switzerland.
Making Eyes: Douglas Gordon
Douglas Gordon and Rufus Wainwright collaborated to produce afflictive, slow-motion projections to accompany Wainwright’s performances during his 2010 All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu tour.
The Extreme Present
Opening reception: Tuesday, December 3, 5–8pm
December 4–8, 2019
Moore Building, Miami
Gagosian is pleased to announce The Extreme Present, the fifth in a series of annual exhibitions at the Moore Building in the Miami Design District during Art Basel Miami Beach, presented by Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch. The Extreme Present will explore artists’ reactions to the conditions of our accelerating and increasingly complex world. The title is inspired by The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, a book by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, published in 2015. Their provocative thesis addresses the rapidly evolving digital era, half a century after Marshall McLuhan’s groundbreaking study on technology’s influence on culture, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, in which he coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” Works in this exhibition explore concepts of media, communication, togetherness, and isolation.
The Extreme Present
Gagosian at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées
Opening reception: Saturday, October 12, 6:30–8pm
October 12–20, 2019
Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées, Paris
In celebration of FIAC in Paris, Gagosian is pleased to collaborate with Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées on a two-floor pop-up takeover featuring products related to Gagosian artists. On the first floor, the Coin Culture section will feature catalogues, posters, apparel, and audio productions. The second floor, the Library, will house an additional selection of limited-edition books, publications, and catalogues raisonnés.
Gagosian at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées, Paris, 2019
Douglas Gordon, Michel Auder, Lolita Jablonskienė
Saturday, June 15, 2019, 5–6pm
Douglas Gordon will speak with photographer Michel Auder and art critic Lolita Jablonskienė on the life and legacy of Jonas Mekas, the “godfather of avant-garde film.” All three speakers were friends and admirers of Mekas. Gordon’s 2016 film I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person incorporates one minute of real-time footage per year of Mekas’s momentous life, covering his departure from his native Lithuania, to his time in forced-labor camps and a displaced persons’ center during World War II, to his eventual arrival in New York, and beyond. The discussion, moderated by Maxa Zoller, curator of Art Basel’s Film Sector, is titled “‘Reminiscence of a Journey’—The Legacy of Jonas Mekas.” The event is free to attend.
Douglas Gordon, I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person, 2016 (still) © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Closing this Week
Art and the Studio System
Through March 1, 2020
Yuz Museum, Shanghai
In Production: Art and the Studio System emphasizes the overlapping histories of visual art and film, with a particular focus on how the site of the studio, both in visual arts and in cinematic production, has radically shifted in the last twenty years. The exhibition highlights the exceptional gifts and acquisitions related to film and video that have entered the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection in recent years including work by Piero Golia, Douglas Gordon, Alex Israel, and Mike Kelley.
Douglas Gordon, Déjà-Vu, 2000 , installation view, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles. Artwork © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020 . D.O.A., 1950, USA. Directed by Rudolph Maté. Produced by Joseph H. Nadel, Harry M. Popkin, and Leo C. Popkin. Distributed by United Artists © Cardinal Pictures. Photo: Brian Forrest
Douglas Gordon in
Time Machine: Vedere e sperimentare il tempo
Through May 3, 2020
Palazzo del Governatore, Parma, Italy
Time Machine: To See and to Experiment the Time is a reflection on how cinema and other media based on moving images have transformed our perception of time throughout history. Work by Douglas Gordon is included.
Douglas Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho, 1993 © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020. Photo: Bert Ross. Psycho (1960), USA. Directed and Produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Distributed by Paramount Pictures. © Universal City Studios
The Cindy Sherman Effect
Identität und Transformation in der zeitgenössischen Kunst
Through June 21, 2020
Kunstforum Wien, Vienna
Cindy Sherman’s work has long questioned issues of identity, including the ways in which it can be constructed and transformed, and elements of fiction. The exhibition, whose title translates to Identity and Transformation in Contemporary Art, juxtaposes Sherman’s work with that of other contemporary artists, including Douglas Gordon, working in a variety of media.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled (#93), 1981, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo © Cindy Sherman. Photo: courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
In My Shadow
September 7, 2019–February 16, 2020
ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark
This solo presentation is one of the most extensive exhibitions of Douglas Gordon’s work in Europe to date and shows a wide selection of the artist’s most important works.
Douglas Gordon, Phantom, 2011 (still) © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020