“Robinson’s sculptures are simple in geometry yet made more complex through the artist’s direct manipulation of the forms. Sculptures are conceived and created as a whole, often from a single handmade mold rather than built up from smaller parts. Pressure applied to one location affects the entire shape—for example, the crushing of the centers of Cup (1) and Cup (2) causes the circular openings at each end to distort. The sculptures are perceived to be pushed and pulled by forces internal or external.
Robinson speaks of these sculptures as being derived from things in the world rather than direct representations or appropriations. Although they reference subjects of various sizes, the sculptures in the exhibition are made to be nearly commensurate in scale in order to bring about an approximate sameness of presence. Though recognizable as utilitarian items such as an umbrella, tent, tire, cups, and a jug, Robinson’s sculptures are relieved from any branding or speci city in design. The anonymity lends itself to a democratic familiarity, leaving space for works to shift in unexpected ways.”(from the press release for No One’s Things, his recent show at MAGENTA PLAINS in New York, 2018).
For Robinson, painting is a means of seeing, which is then a means to painting. How visual cues are received, processed and then reflected in paintings has held his attention recently and formed the basis of this new series. Making work that speaks to the act of witnessing and capturing, Robinson shows the limitations of that recognition, activating through painting what might be unseen, passed over or elusively below the surface of apprehension. For him, what is received through a quick glance or a focused stare may contain more information than we cognitively register. The paintings in this exhibition materialize what may or may not fully exist.
Although Robinson has primarily shown sculpture, such as in his recent solo show at Magenta Plains in New York, his painting practice has continued in private. It was only a matter of trying to capture the complex and subtle ways that seeing accepts and limits transcription. His paintings act less like an objective record than an evocation of fleeting views captured while traveling by train to Manhattan from his home in Brewster, New York. His paintings reflect what is felt subconsciously and how one articulates a dimension of perception that may be unknowingly present.
It’s within this liminal space that some of the most riveting moments happen in the work. The paintings utilize the familiar as a pictorial anchor upon which Robinson brings to bear what can only be described as the uncanny. What is ultimately difficult to describe or name precisely is the recurring question moving the work forward. What caused this event to occur? When is this happening? What effect makes light move so? When we begin to notice the slippages in these evocative paintings, we become engaged in a conversation about how painting can determine place and time while dislodging any fixed position.
Nathaniel Robinson received his BA from Amherst College in 2002 and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005. He has had solo exhibitions with Feature, Inc., Launch F18, and Magenta Plains in New York, and Devening Projects and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. He has participated in group exhibitions at On Stellar Rays, 33 Orchard and White Columns in New York, as well as in Brussels, Dusseldorf, Leipzig and Melbourne. Later this year, his work will be included in the 2019 Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. His exhibitions have been reviewed in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Artforum and Art in America. Robinson lives and works in Brewster, New York.