Bruce Robbins: Paintings and Drawings

April 06, 1995 - May 13, 1995

Yoshii Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Bruce Robbins.

Bruce Robbins emerged in the mid-seventies as a new image sculptor with a series of painted and constructed ladder and see-saw sculptures. By 1979, Robbins was producing a series of pilaster and door sculptures which combined elements of sculpture and painting, and signaled the emergence of a post-modernist movement. Until the mid-eighties, he continued to work with the same materials and methods to create constructed paintings, but by the end of the decade, he had begun creating unpainted sculpture and paintings on canvas. This enterprise has continued to the present; Robbins’ work was recently shown at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, where he executed a series of wall paintings based on the ballet Sparticus.

The new oil and encaustic paintings on linen have evolved over the last six years. In these, Robbins deals with universal, sublime and heroic themes from Western culture, distilling them into non-objective and abstract works. While rejecting the post-modernist technique of juxtaposing media, found in earlier work, the new paintings mark a return to the primary ideas of modernism, the historical tradition of painting and the fundamental themes of nature, man and the relationship between the two.

The dualism central to these new paintings consists of an additive and subtractive element. The additive (painterly and non-objective) element is manifested in the lintel-like bar of impasto color across the top of each work. Below, the subtractive element–incised lines that reveal an abstract armature akin to drawing–encompasses the greater part of the painting. The two seemingly contradictory methods evolved directly from Robbins’ earlier sculptural exploration. Although each component deals with the same subjects–figuration, nature, poetry and the events of the life-cycle–they are depicted in distinct, though dependent ways. The combinations evident in the paintings bring to mind some basic dualisms, such as mind/body, spiritual/earthly and ineffable/concrete, that co-exist in tense and, at times, harmonious relationships.

For his first solo show in New York in ten years, Robbins has created a group of paintings and drawings based on the poem An Elephant Crossed the Road by Marc Straus. Part history and part biography, An Elephant Crossed the Road contrasts the life of the poet’s father with the Holocaust.