About this artwork

Epic scale has been traditionally reserved for sculptures of political statesmen or sovereign leaders, where size is used to exert the powerful status of the subject. Therrien employs the same device for a mass-produced oil can. The object’s dimensions emphasise the elegant minimalism of its design, in which simple lines and shapes are reminiscent of the classical grandeur of heroic monuments. The highly polished surface captures the viewer’s own reflection in front of the sculpture. Dwarfed by the oversized structure, the artist seems to question the function of such a simple utilitarian object, and how we perceive ourselves in relation to it.

  • title: No Title (Oil Can)
  • accession number: AR00167
  • artist: Robert TherrienAmerican (born 1947)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Sculpture
  • date created: 2004
  • measurements: 246.00 x 53.00 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Robert Therrien
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien

The American artist Therrien is renowned for his large-scale sculpture installations of common objects that subvert the viewers’ notion of the familiar, and encourage them to reconsider their perception of space. His early works were based on instantly identifiable motifs, which were simplified and reproduced as monochromatic reliefs - suspended somewhere between painting and sculpture. In the early 1990s he began to explore the viewer’s relationship with scale. With his recreations of tables and chairs large enough to walk under, Therrien transports the viewer into a fantastical, but slightly unsettling, parallel universe. Born in Chicago, he studied at the University of Southern California and currently lives and works in Los Angeles.