Walter Robinson: Salad, Candles, And Money
Johannes Vogt Gallery, NYC
December 12, 2018 - January 26, 2019
In New York at a certain point, music got stripped down. Punk took rock back to its pop roots. Hip Hop down to the soul break, the beat and the words. And classical music to a relentless serial throb. Some NY painters did the same thing. No more long form philosophizing, or lugubrious vision questing via Joseph Beuys. They kept it simple, the Pictures Generation took their cue from TV, videos, magazines, and records. But this wasn't Pop, the artist wasn't just reproducing the reproduced. They had integrated media culture into their lives and their art was filtered by it and it by they.
"When I say 'into,' it's what I remember. And when I say 'formative,'" I mean, memories. Suburban '50s shit. I don't resist it. Why should I? Even if I did, the shit would still somehow end up in my paintings." Richard Prince
Walter Robinson's images come out of catalogues and adverts but he doesn't re-photograph, he rips the page out and paints it. He paints ordinary things -- burgers, salads, money, girls, shirts. Desire is not some Foucaultian mindtrap but a natural thing. We all want a burger! A beer! A hot girl! A hot guy! Money! Friends!
But be careful what you wish for. Coming out of the hard times, hard, hard drinking and drugs of New York in the '80s, Robinson watched desire claims its due. His work carries a low level threat. Its not a pint of whisky it's a fifth, it's just a packet of cigarettes but it could get you hooked. That burger will raise your cholesterol. He's singing the working man's blues but it’s played by The Clash.
The Back to Basics approach: "paint what you want" is on view in Robinson's new show at Johannes Vogt Gallery on Madison Avenue. The salads are delicious the money wads are thick and the candles glow, aptly. What you want must also include painting and there is a new joy in the act of making them. Something has changed in the consistency of the paint. The colors are fresher, the gestures are looser, its like the image bounced onto the canvas hitting it with a slight splat.
This salad glistens from the dressing. There's a hot studio light on the tomatoes. When you get close to the image it almost falls apart in to a cats cradle of drippy green lines.
The larger Candles painting stacks up the squat votives like a chopper cam shot of Mediterranean rooftops. Christmassy purples and pinks are laid on in hot, fat, fudgy strokes.
This might be a Gerhard Richter skit. His solitary candle is an icon. But hey, this is America we’ve got it in all kinds of colours and scented!
The painting Spa Candles (top of page) implies that the spa is the new chapel, relaxation is meditation. In Waitress Tips she's making a bundle but look at those ludicrous fake nails. The satirical half eye that he gives his desires is still there but the threat of dissipation is gone.
The artist imagines that if he can just eat salads and say a few prayers each day maybe he will finally make some real money.