|“Robinson’s exploitations of pop imagery succeed by failing the Pictures Generation shibboleth of ironic detachment. In his paintings, the louche sexual glamour of penny dreadfuls and the temptations of booze and junk food are palpable—only the more so, nostalgically, now that the artist is abstemious. Robinson is a Manet of hot babes and a Morandi of McDonald’s French fries and Budweiser beer cans, magnetized by his subjects as he devotes his brush to generic painterly description.” — Peter Schjeldahl, “A Man-About-Downtown Gets His Due,” The New Yorker, September 26, 2016
(St. Moritz, Switzerland)—Vito Schnabel Gallery is showing a solo exhibition of Walter Robinson’s work, entitled The Americans, featuring paintings on sheets that depict scenes from the covers of paperback romance novels—a central motif of his work—through September 2. The exhibition includes new Romance paintings, created this year, along with two works in the same series from 1986. A key figure in the Pictures Generation along with friends like Cindy Sherman, Julian Schnabel, and Richard Prince, Walter Robinson has been a fixture of the New York art world for decades both as an artist and as editor-in-chief of Artnet magazine. On Robinson, New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl mused, “The art is like the man: wry, with blatant charms and slow-acting authenticities.”
Robinson describes the central theme of his work as being at base level about appetites, from the sexual to the culinary. Robinson writes, “Bed sheets serve as an almost universal accessory to elemental manifestations of desire. Also amusing is the thought that bed sheets are horizontal in the dark and hung vertical to dry in the sunshine. Nature is horizontal and culture is vertical, and a patterned bed sheet introduces the whimsical curlicues of the social imagination into the horizontal biological realm.” He also describes the patterned bed sheets he paints on as “a metaphor for the continuous field of consciousness.”
The art historian Leo Steinberg ventured into the contemporary with a theory of the “flatbed picture plane,” which he applied in particular to Robert Rauschenberg. Steinberg noted the classical notion of a painting as a “world space” that corresponds with a head-to-toe humans posture, and posited in its place a horizontal workspace, like a tabletop on which items are scattered or information is imprinted. Robinson’s works seek to enliven Steinberg’s speculations of this “radically new orientation, in which the painted surface is no longer the analogue of a visual experience of nature, but of operational processes,” something which he described as “the most radical shift in the subject matter of art—a shift from nature to culture” (Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria, 1972, pp. 61-98).
Born in 1950 in Wilmington, Delaware and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Walter Robinson moved to New York in 1968 to attend Columbia University, where he studied Art History and Psychology. Robinson still lives and works in New York, where he maintains a studio. Robinson has shown his work at several New York galleries, and a retrospective exhibition of 80 paintings was organized in 2014 by Barry Blinderman for the University Galleries at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. The exhibition traveled to the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA and Jeffrey Deitch in New York. A 1986 sheet painting, Baron Sinister, was recently acquired into the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and was on view in their spring exhibition, Fast Forward: Paintings from the 1980s.
About Vito Schnabel Gallery:
Vito Schnabel Gallery was founded in 2015 by Vito Schnabel. The inaugural exhibition, Urs Fischer: Bruno & Yoyo, featured all new work and paid homage to Bruno Bischofberger, whose gallery had occupied the space since 2009. In conjunction with the opening show, VSG presented an offsite public art installation by Sterling Ruby, entitled STOVES, in a garden across from the gallery at the Kulm Hotel. The installation reflects the gallery’s ongoing intention to curate this and other public spaces throughout St. Moritz year-round as an extension of its programming.
Prior to opening the gallery in St. Moritz, Vito Schnabel presented exhibitions in varied locations such as Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich, Switzerland, Acquavella Galleries in New York, a cloistered garden in Venice during the Venice Biennale, photographer Richard Avedon’s former studio, and the Farley Post Office in New York, carefully matching artists’ work with unique and temporary exhibition settings. In February 2015, he curated an exhibition of Ron Gorchov’s paintings at Sotheby’s S|2 in London, and in May, he presented a group show at the historic Germania Bank Building on the Bowery. which had not been open to the public since the mid-1960s. The exhibition included works by Joe Bradley, Dan Colen, Jeff Elrod, Ron Gorchov, Mark Grotjahn, Harmony Korine, and Julian Schnabel. In addition to the St. Moritz gallery, Schnabel has an office and private exhibition space in New York City where he conducts his daily operations.
Vito Schnabel Gallery
Via Maistra 37
7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland