Philip A. Robinson Jr. “Old Talks with New Icons”
A Solo Exhibition Presented by The Untitled Space
November 20th | Opening 5pm – 8pm
EXHIBITION ON VIEW
November 20 – December 17, 2021
The Untitled Space
45 Lispenard Street, NYC 10013
The Untitled Space will present “Old Talks with New Icons” a solo exhibition of works by artist Philip A. Robinson Jr. at the gallery in Tribeca, NY from November 20th through December 17th, 2021. “Old Talks with New Icons” presents a collection of life-sized figurative wood mixed media wall sculptures as well as a series of hand-cut works on paper by the award-winning multi-media sculptor and conceptual artist. The exhibition will be the debut solo exhibition of artwork by Robinson presented by The Untitled Space, who is newly represented by the gallery. Robinson uses wood to symbolize temporality within natural cycles of time and geography to amplify the narrative of identity within popular and marginalized cultures. Through a thoughtful selection of materials and the science of dendrochronology – as a protocol for historic markers for environmental changes through time – his work accentuates aesthetic and historic patterns between self and the world, with socio-political undertones.
Robinson’s work is shaped by influences from a Cherokee and African American mother and a Trinidadian and British father against the backdrop of the 1980s neo-conceptual art and installation practices and a climate of laissez-faire capitalism and technological advances. Robinson’s ongoing exploration of identity raises questions: Who controls culture? How does history shape the importance of culture? How does historic culture become appropriated into popular culture? How is culture sustained and influenced by ‘others’? How does the relationship between hegemonic and marginalized cultures influence value? Do these distinct values create a schism in subjective and objective definitions of self? Robinson’s work affirms the vital connection between the foundation of one’s identity and the necessity for corrective historical discourse to avoid becoming extinct.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the title of your debut solo show “Old Talks with New Icons” opening on Nov 20th?
The narrative of race, culture, and identity within social constructs isn’t new. These conversations have been taking place for centuries. But the individuals that have chosen to take on these roles/challenges have evolved. The student, teacher, lawyer, politician, humanitarian, millionaire looks different from 10, 50, 100 years ago. Certain things are timeless. Others need to change with the times.
What can we look forward to from your debut solo show? Can you share a bit of info about the collection of works?
I can guarantee the viewer will witness something they have never seen before. The experience might be fresh, but the imagery received and captured by everyone might hold a particular space within that person’s historical background, interests, or passions.
You work primarily with wood – what is it about wood that resonates with you creatively?
I am drawn to the history of the different types of wood I use in my works. Each is unique and tells its own story. No two trees are alike on this planet so each line, color, mark, shape is driven by location, seasons, elements, etc. As a Fine Artist and Educator, I have always strived to give my viewers/students an experience that will resonate with them during and after viewing my work.
How did you get started with sculpture?
I have always liked to make things with my hands. (Grade School Dioramas, Undergraduate Ceramics, Graduate School Sheet Metal). If I could envision it, I could create it with my hands.
Tell us about how history plays a role in your artworks?
I use dendrochronology to date all the wood I use in my sculptures. By looking at the rings in each individual piece of wood used to make the whole you can determine the time in which that tree inhabited. And if you know that tree was 50, 70, 100, 200 years old then you can create a historical timeline as to what transpired during the life of that tree and the importance that information plays into the repurpose of the figures used in each sculpture.
Can you share a bit of info about where you are from and how your identity impacts your work?
I was born in Lennox Hospital Harlem NY to an African American and Cherokee Mother and Trinidadian and British Father during the 80’s. Growing up in a single-parent home I struggled with my identity. My cousins were popular in school. I was not. All the tall black boys played basketball. I preferred soccer. I enjoyed spending time with my pets (27). Or long bike rides instead of playing video games. But I never saw myself as different. I just didn’t understand why some people didn’t understand me or why they wanted me to dress or act a certain way. Societal norms can be suffocating.
Your sculptures have an interactive component in person – can you explain how viewers can interact with them and the inspiration for using mirrors in your artwork?
The figure I construct out of wood, is affixed to high-quality mirror finish stainless steel. The figure appears suspended between the physical space of the gallery and its reflection. Although the figure is fixed, its situation is contingent on where the work is placed and the viewer’s chance reflection in it. Like Michelangelo Pistoletto, “The work is available for a continuous happening. The viewer and subject are both in the same situation, neither one can impose their will on the other.”
I use Mirror finish stainless steel because I want my viewers to be able to physically see themselves in the figure.
Where do you find the inspiration for the subjects depicted – the various persona that inspire each piece?
TV, Print, Film, History Books, social media, Educational Institutions…Life experiences.
Can you share some of the titles of works that resonate with you most and the process of developing the works?
The title of works that resonate with me the most are the ones I have yet to complete. When I first started developing the series, I spent a large amount of time conceiving the idea and materials I would use. Even though I graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with my MFA, I am a self-taught woodworker. It took me almost a year and a half to finish the first two sculptures in the series. That is why I usually have 4-5 different sculptures in production in my studio. I have cut down the time it takes to conceive, produce, and complete a piece from the series but it has taken me my entire life to get to this point to share this series with my audience.
How did you start working with The Untitled Space?
I believe this world gives back to you what you put in. Everything happens for a reason. In the same year that I made some very specific goals for myself and a pact that I would apply for anything and everything that came across my table, I met Indira and the Untitled Space Gallery. I was scrolling on my social media and saw an open call for applications for the Untitled Space Gallery with the promise of a solo show if accepted. I immediately applied and the rest is…
Philip A. Robinson Jr. received his BFA in Studio Art from Skidmore College and his MFA in Sculpture from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers. Notable exhibitions include Prizm Art Fair during Miami Art Basel, The Black Wall Street Gallery, the Contemporary Art Curator Magazine, the Rush Arts Gallery, the Barrett Art Center, LuluLemon (Hudson Yards), The National Academy Museum and School, the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibition, The Frances Young Tang Museum and Art Gallery, 14C Jersey City Art show & Juried Exhibition, The Bronx Art Space, The Novado Gallery, The Bridge Art Gallery, Akwaaba Gallery, The BSB Gallery, The Conceptions Art Show (New York), Neumeraki, Pro Arts Jersey City, The Carrie Able Gallery, Grace Church School Benefit Auction, the Merseles Studios, 107 Bowers Gallery, the Distillery Gallery, the NEWYORKMINDED Gallery, 1978 Maplewood Arts Center, and SNEAKERROOM. Aside from his work as a contemporary artist he has acted as a creative director for El Museo Del Barrio, as head liaison for Abigail DeVille residency program, and is an art educator.