Robin Rhode: Variants
Extract of a skype chat between The Boyfriend and I:
regine: Hey! Just seen a fantastic exhibition of Robin Rhode's videos at the White Cube gallery.
And so here i am, blogging about an artist whose animations i should have been tired of ages ago. Yet, each time i see his work, i'm mesmerized and get out of the gallery space a smilier person.
Robin Rhode's digital animations start with simple chalk drawings scribbled on brick walls. The drawings get a life when the artist or a performer attempts to interact with the drawings in absurd and charming little scenarios.
Rhode would draw a bicycle on a wall and then tried to jump on it and ride away, he'd draw a record player and put a real record on it to listen to music, use chalk to draw a yoyo and start playing with it or he would use bricks to shape a flag and wave it, etc. It's as if Rhode had just one trick but enough creativity and imagination to make it work each and every time.
The five very short animations on show at the White Cube are a curious mix of silent cinema sketches, performance and video art. Each of the movies feature an iconic, yet unforgivably uncomfortable, chair by Gerrit Rietveld.
In Piano Chair, the chair is the silent witness of acts of violence that a concert pianist perpetrates against a piano. Wearing black tie and tails, the man is bent on destroying the instrument. First he throws rocks at it, then attacks it with a knife, an axe and a pillow before pouring petrol over the drawing of the piano and setting it on fire. Finally he hangs the piano and kicks the chair away.
The most curious movie is Arm Chair. A black man painted in black stands in front of a wall. He is wearing a sinister contraption. Strangely i was happy not to understand what exactly was going on there.
On the left side of the two-screen projection for 'Military Chair', a soldier, dressed in street camouflage, tosses a chair in the air. The chair begins to break, until only the white seat is left, finally disappearing off screen. On the other screen, a uniformed general is doing a similar dance with the chair, but his chair remains in one piece - floating above and beyond his reach. The images are accompanied by a soundtrack suggestive of a sword fight and the animation ends with the two protagonists coming to rest in a face-off, only one chair remaining.
Don't pass by this video of Rhode discussing Variants without watching it.