Good News — This exhibit will be up until 2023! So if you missed it in October, you can still go.
I was able to see the Frankd Robinson mid-career retrospective exhibit for the second time on Friday. My companion and I were the only one’s there, so I was able to get some photos of the work and enjoy the space. I’d been to the opening but was enjoying the art and people too much to get any good photos.
The exhibit is in 2 well lit rooms. Robinson’s work is often very dense with collage and elements that practically leap off the canvas. For him, almost anything can be a canvas — a skateboard, a bottle, an ironing board, a cooler top. The way the art is arranged gives each piece enough space that you can “read” it, study it, and really absorb it.
Everything is art to him. He uses labels, razor blades, rich thick paint, and words to create figures that display all that passes through our lives — figures emerging from and carrying all the confusion that surrounds us. I can’t compare his work to another artist because I don’t know of anyone who has such a unique style. He addresses problems of race, health, and poverty with power and grace. He shows chaos that nurtures beauty, and unlocks the grief of life and the human condition. His materials also create a space for humor and wonder.
In 2009, he had a show at the Dixon Gallery. Their bio of him said:
“Frank D. Robinson Jr. is a Memphis native, obtaining his BFA from the University of Memphis before completing his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was also active in the noted summer youth-mural program led by George Hunt and Charles Davis locally in the early 1980’s, and was later a member of the NIA artist’s collective….
Robinson describes himself as a ‘recyclist’, able to turn anything he finds into art… While working at a charter school he would find garbage in the parking lot when he arrived each morning. He decided to make art from what would normally be discarded, teaching the children to transform bad situations into positive experiences by “turning trash into treasure.“
Since then, he has had major health challenges, but has continued to work, and continued to create art that acknowledges pain and yet reflects optimism and energy.
Since it is a retrospective show, I got a deeper understanding of the stages of his career. It’s like a history written in the color and ephemera that makes up our lives. It’s the complex vision of a man who has faced mortality in many different ways and continues to “trust his struggle.”
The Martha and Robert Fogelman of Art at the University of Memphis, at 3715 Central, is open from 9-4 Monday through Friday. If you need directions, you can call the UofM art department at 901-678-3052.
Here are some examples of his work, but if you get a chance to see it in person, please do. It’s stunning.
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