Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
San Francisco, CA: Catharine Clark Gallery (CCG) announces Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, a solo exhibition of new and selected works by Walter Robinson. Our dedicated media room will feature John Slepian’s work, Art is Not an Object (Sculpture). The exhibition dates are March 1 through March 29, 2014. The artists will be present for a reception on Saturday, March 1. The opening and exhibition are free and open to the public.
Loosely translated as “Thus Passes the Glory of the World,” Sic Transit Gloria Mundi is about the fleeting nature of material objects, the human experience of passing through life, and mortality. The very personal and idiosyncratic work in Sic Transit Gloria Mundi reflects Robinson’s exploration of aging, and an accounting of his life, while looking into a future of income inequality, diminishing resources and physical decline. Walter Robinson views his life trajectory in parallel with the path of America’s growth, expansion and decline. In his words, “This work takes stock of where America and I have been, what we have seen and learned, and searches for where we will go.”
Themes of searching, reflecting and predicting life’s path resonate in the paintings and sculptures in Robinson’s new body of work—a shift away from his word-play and text-based practice, and very much a comment on his personal journey. For example, The Hours,a new work on paper, began with a card scanned from his mother’s naipes deck—old French playing cards (akin to Tarot) from the 1920’s used to tell fortunes. The symbols on the cards—coins, cups, clubs and swords—represent business, romance, adventure and conflict. His mother’s handwritten notes about the meanings of the cards appear faintly in the background. Robinson’s mother is now 99; the futures she once predicted are past. A new series of paintings, The Four Seasons, feature hobo clowns and imagery of 1950’s paint-by-numbers compositions popular in Robinson’s youth—a nostalgic reflection of a more innocent time, when nature was romanticized and, perhaps, less threatened. The algorithmic process of Robinson’s text-based work is apparent in the stylized re-creation of the paint-by-numbers color patterns and landscapes. The characters and background depicted in these compositions are frozen in time and memory—portraying lost opportunities and paths not taken.
Robinson’s sculptural work continues the exploration of similar themes of aging and time passing—many of the elements used to create the sculptures in the exhibit are adapted and fabricated from found objects, while some are actually cannibalized from his earlier work, literally integrating the past with the present. Exodus, a sculpture featuring a boar’s head on the body of a pack mule, is laden with various flotsam including a rifle constructed from parts of a gasoline pump, a holstered Blackberry, and a large hourglass. This piece is Robinson’s autobiographical response to packing up and moving a lifetime of work, and the burden of decades of accumulated possessions. Fruits de Mer conflates the nautical design of a container ship and an ancient Egyptian funerary boat, powered by slaves. Like the pyramids or a Mayan temple, the mountain of containers creates a capitalist axis mundi—a stairway to heaven.
Born in San Francisco in 1950, Robinson has spent most of his life in the Bay Area, with short stints living and working in France and the American South. Robinson works in a range of materials— wood, epoxy, metal, and found materials— of which he hand-fabricates and assembles objects, signage and tableaux that investigate the mechanics of cultural and social anthropology. Often borrowing from advertising practices, he uses saturated color and glossy surfaces to seduce the viewer. His mash-up of sociopolitical content, humor and meticulous craft draws in his audience just close enough to witness the mechanism of that desire and to reflect on the consequences, humor and politics of excessive consumption. Drawing upon the coded signifiers of marketing techniques, he reconstructs the appearance of recognizable logos and brands to shine light on the insatiable nature of capitalism and consumer culture. Language has been a life-long interest for Robinson who grew up with a Spanish-speaking mother and a father who worked as a cryptographer. Throughout his practice, Robinson has used visual puns and word combinations, effectively montaging conflicting ideas that collectively create additional meaning. Using text and the strategies of appropriation, conflation, and dislocation, he uncovers the subconscious and biological human imperatives hidden beneath social, political, religious, and capitalist packaging. Robinson’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the San Jose Museum of Art and Villa Montalvo. His work is included in many public and private collections, including the San Jose Museum of Art, the di Rosa Preserve: Art & Nature, The Sheldon Museum of Art, and the Djerassi Foundation. His work has received critical attention from a number of publications including Artforum, ArtReview, Vanity Fair, and the San Francisco Chronicle. An alumnus of Lone Mountain College’s master of fine arts program, he also studied for a time at the San Francisco Art Institute and what was formerly the California College of the Arts and Crafts. Robinson lives and works in San Francisco and has exhibited with Catharine Clark Gallery since 1993.