Lehmann Maupin Gallery is pleased to present Robin Rhode’s first exhibition in New York in more than five years. It is also Rhode’s debut solo show at Lehmann Maupin since joining the gallery earlier this year. The artist has taken over both New York galleries to present a two-part exhibition featuring a new series of street-based photographs and an educational wall drawing intervention with Time In, a local outreach program specializing in arts education for underprivileged school children. The artist will be present for opening receptions at both galleries on Thursday, 10 January from 6 to 9 PM.
Robin Rhode, the South African-born, Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist, engages a variety of visual languages such as photography, performance, drawing and sculpture to create arrestingly beautiful narratives that are brought to life using quotidian materials such as soap, charcoal, chalk and paint. Coming of age in a newly post-apartheid South Africa, Rhode was exposed to new forms of creative expression motivated by the spirit of the individual rather than dictated by a political or social agenda. The growing influence of hip-hop, film, and popular sports on youth culture as well as the community’s reliance on storytelling in the form of colorful murals encouraged the development of Rhode’s hybrid street-based aesthetic. His strategic interventions transform urban landscapes into imaginary worlds, compressing space and time, as two-dimensional renderings become the subject of three-dimensional interactions by a sole protagonist, usually played by the artist or by an actor inhabiting the role of artist. Melding individual expressionism with broader socio-economic concerns, Rhode’s work reveals a mastery of illusion, a rich range of historical and contemporary references, and an innate skill for blending high and low art forms.
The exhibition at 540 West 26th Street, "Take your Mind Off the Street,” is dedicated to Rhode’s newest series of photographs. Each work consists of multiple images capturing a singular action that unfolds sequentially, in most cases, from left to right, similar to the action portrayed in a zoetrope. In Bird on Wires, for instance, Rhode’s character traces the flight pattern of a bird as it makes its way from one perch to the next along a barbed wire fence. The action recalls early movement experiments carried out by the French scientist, physiologist and chronophotographer, Ètienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), in the 1880s. The triptych Broken Glass depicts a crowbar-wielding man shattering a larger-than-life wine glass; it’s red liquid spilling forth, staining the stark white wall. This act of violence is amplified through scale and the absurdity of the subject matter, and in the context of Johannesburg, the artist’s hometown, symbolic of the violence and social inequality that continues to plague the city to this day.
At 201 Chrystie Street, Rhode will utilize the walls of the gallery for a site-specific intervention entitled Paries Pictus. The artist has partnered with Time In, a New York City-based organization that specializes in arts education for kids from underserved elementary schools. A group of approximately 40 to 50 students, ranging in age from six to eight, from PS 63 in the South Bronx will be invited to use oversized crayons to color in geometric vinyl graphics applied directly to the walls by Rhode. Paries Pictus was first enacted at the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, Italy, in 2011.
This past November, Roxana Marcoci, Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, invited Rhode to participate in Paris Photo Platform, an experimental platform for the critical discussion of photography. During the Vernissage, Rhode performed Darkroom, 2012. The artist’s digital animation Open Court, 2012, was also widely screened at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach as part of the fair’s Art Video and Art Kabinett programs. A forthcoming solo exhibition is scheduled for the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, in May 2013.
Robin Rhode was born in 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa, and raised in Johannesburg. He graduated from the South Africa School of Film, Television and Dramatic Arts, Johannesburg, in 2000. Given his first major museum solo show by Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, in 2007, Robin has since had major solo exhibitions at a number of important museums around the world, including the Hayward Gallery, London (2008); The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2009), and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California (2010). He has participated in notable group exhibitions, such as the 2012 Sydney Biennale; Staging Action: Performance in Photography Since 1960, MoMA, New York, and Framed, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana (both 2011); SITE Santa Fe Biennale and The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, MoMA, New York (both 2010); the 51st Venice Biennale (2005); and New Photography, MoMA, New York (2005). His work can be found in numerous public collections, including the Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa; Miami Art Museum, Florida; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Rhode currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.