Form and Focus
May 9th - June 15th, 2019
David Robinson, Robert Kelly
There’s a curious resonance in the works of Canadian sculptor David Robinson and New York artist Robert Kelly. One might not expect Kelly’s pristine, minimalist palimpsests with their bold block colours to converse well with the raw, organic figurative sculpture of Robinson. Yet they speak the same language.
Both artists are meticulous in their use of form. For Kelly, that means crafting the perfect line and curve, using both paint and hand-cut paper to define positive and negative space. The precision of his shapes is uncanny, and is elevated and transformed by a warmth and balance rarely seen in such painstaking and geometric work. For Robinson, formal elements are a critical tool for contextualizing his figures. By situating his figures in abstract environments that suggest, rather than depict, the travails of human life, Robinson allows the viewer to flow between personal and universal narratives. Pieces such as Praxis, Corpus Callosum, and Geist can be read like a Kelly in 3D, with the figure as a proxy for the lived experience of the viewer. Speaking of formal elements on a larger scale, Robinson says: “Representation, we forget, was the thing, pattern and archetype, from which we first set out to make abstractions. What, after all, are those massive tectonic forms without we ourselves, to walk bodily among them, selflessly lending context and thus meaning to their mere grandeur?”
Another commonality is the careful attention these artists bring to their work – the reverence for process, and the commitment to layering. Kelly’s works involve a slow process of building up layers of paint and paper – often vintage lithographic prints from his travels. For Robinson, as well as building up formal and figurative elements, layering is key for the development of the figure itself. From a skeletal armature, Robinson builds up layers of muscle to develop the form. Only when the underlying volumes feel right will he begin to work the surface – a process which itself will make or break the sculpture. Through these processes, both bodies of work communicate a compelling sense of time and journey.
Hard work and the methodical dedication to both medium and language unites these two artists. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to see works spanning each artist’s practice.