JTF (just the facts): A total of 9 multi-panel works and 1 single image photograph, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the two separate gallery venues. Each of the multi-panel works is made up of a series of 16×24 c-prints, gathered into sets of 8, 9, 12, 15, or 16 prints. All of the works were made in 2012-2013 and are available in editions of 5+2AP. The round single image photograph is sized 73×73. The show also includes 2 metal sculptures suspended from the ceiling in the 26th Street location and a series of crayon-colored wall decals in the Chrystie Street location. All of the photographs are on view at the 26th Street location, except for 1 set of 8 prints (switchblade) shown on the second floor balcony at Chrystie Street. (Installation shots at right.)
Comments/Context: Robin Rhode’s photographic works distill an unlikely mash-up of artistic styles and genres into cleverly simple visual vignettes. Mixing equal parts hip-hop street art and active performance with a photographic approach that reaches back to Marey and Muybridge, his mini-stories play out with flip book style lightness and ease. Told against the backdrop of anonymous walls and using himself as a kind of subtly comic straight man, his works play with camera-viewed flatness and perspective, using iterative stop motion steps to create a linear progression of time and narrative.
Most of Rhode’s series are step-by-step charcoal drawings (black on white or white on black) that find the artist interacting with the evolving hand-drawn scene behind him. Huge feathers fan out in an arc, a car spanner spirals overhead, and a massive comb makes crossed striations on the wall. Unexpected scale and optical trickery often play a part: an oversized afro pick pumps up a tangled ball into a big circle, birds fly over a barbed wire fence, and ships multiply across a wavy sea tracked by sight lines drawn straight from Rhode’s eyes. Motion is indicated by cartoon swooshes, giving the bounce of a basketball, the curved climb of a bicycle, and the speed of a car the appearance of movement. Rhode’s works give the one-liner of street art more degrees of freedom, allowing basic visuals to morph and change.
These recent works feel slightly less subversive and reactionary than previous works I have seen by Rhode; they have less political edge and more carefree wit. I think this softens their impact, tipping the balance away from social critique and toward nimble ingenuity. This doesn’t diminish their imagination or originality, but it reduces their perceived weight. These works ask less of us, and as a result, feel more like exercises in whimsy.
Collector’s POV: The photographic works in these shows range in price from 50000€ to 75000€ based on size/number of panels. Rhode’s work has not been consistently available in worldwide photography auctions; when it has shown up, it has generally been placed in the Contemporary Art sales. Recent prices have ranged between $30000 and $35000, but these numbers should be taken with a degree of caution as my data from these sales is less comprehensive.