Mixed, Dimensions Variable, Duration Variable
Essay on Crescendo, Ms. Schoenthal, Curator, 2nd Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
There is oh-so-very much layered in the art work of Robin Rose. In Crescendo, the major themes can be distilled to: notions of the hidden or covert; the shaman who exposes, or allows/restricts access to these notions; and the passage of time - long and short term. What makes each work unique, and what makes the disparate components of the exhibition cohere, are the differing degrees to which Rose addresses and presents each of these themes. From serious to playful, in the myriad pop cultural elements, the high art references, and the sophomoric puns, the passage of time can reference the length of a song, the length of a life, or the longevity of a myth. His shamans are John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, or the artistic self. That which is hidden is either literally buried under layers of paint, pigment and wax, or more subtly coded in the images on an album cover, or encrypted in the grooves of an album- revealed to those who take the time to carefully spin the vinyl counterclockwise on the turntable.
The concept of aging is often presented in this show as the intersection of the physical and the spiritual. Physicality in the implied manic energy of a rock-n-roll drummer, or the quiet significance of a salty, sweaty thumbprint gradually oxidizing on a brass cymbal over a period of years. Marked with sixty four of the artistfs own fingerprints, When I'm 64, is titled after Paul McCartney's classic song on facing middle age, written when he was only 16, and released at the height of the Beatlesf youth and vibrancy, a poignant juxtaposition. This year marks Rose's 64th, and, while light hearted in many ways, the works presented here are also nostalgic, and spiritual, and attuned to the physical and emotional effects of the passage of time. In this vein, it's also about limits, and testing them. Stress Test is 4 pounds of vintage lures intermingled with guitar picks hung on a 4lb test line, fishing for perfect balance.
Rose made his career in Washington, DC as an encaustic painter, and Crescendo presents 5 new works, each dedicated to a different musician. They are critical to understanding the evolution of his shift into the sculptural. Rose owns that his paintings have highly conceptual components which are difficult to access because they also possess formal qualities inherent to, and prized in, painting- surface character, brushwork, and color. The 3D works "out" this conceptual side, offering a venue for expression that is more immediately accessible to a viewer saturated with the influences of pop culture, and increasingly less familiar with the ways one is taught to "read" abstract painting. Rose describes this dichotomy in his work as a "functional schizophrenia." He says it with a laugh, because he knows that, despite appearances, the bodies of work are intricately connected. In this exhibition, that connection is made explicit in the piece on the back wall titled Who's afraid of Red, Yellow, Blue. The same title given to a 1966 Barnett Newmanf painting, it references that artist's famous primary "zips" as well visually acknowledging the work of the Washington color school artists Kenneth Noland, Gene Davis, and Morris Louis. But while the work sits tight to the vertical surface of the room, protruding in fact less than the depth of a painting, it is composed of cords tethered to the wall by the input jack from a Les Paul standard. Who's Afraid seems to have a foot in each world- nominally composed of the formal qualities of a painting legacy to which Rose has been the heir, but yearning to break free from the wall and celebrating the fact that its built of mechanical, pop-cultural materials that bear their own history.
The unifying component of Crescendo's parts is the fact that every work is ostensibly about sound, yet each is muted, decapitated, rendered obsolete by time or intention. Echo Mandala is a closed system, each input linked only to the next, neither accepting or producing outside influence. Untitled is a drum set devoid of the skins that provide percussion, and accessorized by drumsticks that would only inevitably wound, at any rate. No Hook, No Song, presents a speaker, disconnected, disassembled, and turned face to the wall, rendering it obsolete in triplicate. Ultimately the artist can lead the viewer to the instrument, but he or she must supply their own soundtrack.
-R. Schoenthal, Curator
crescendo |kr.. sh end.| a progressive increase in force or intensity
the most intense point reached in this; a climax with a gradual increase in loudness
Robin Rose, Crescendo, is on view at Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, March 4-26, 2011.