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When someone unfamiliar with my work asks what it’s like I usually say that if I painted it it looks like what it’s supposed to be.
I’m an imagist.
I used to make paintings of people and now I paint almost anything else. Sort of. Whether it’s a book, a house or a chair (because it was published, designed, constructed for our use) it is evocative of the human experience and in that sense it retains its figural quality.
So then my interest is what these seemingly banal objects can represent. Is a stack of books the ache of procrastination or the elation of accomplishment?
Can looking beyond the rooftops of my neighborhood spur thoughts of travel and adventure? Does an empty chair imply absence or anticipation?
There’s no right answer. One size does not fit all.
Isn’t that great?
~ Jeff Robinson
Jeff Robinson (born 1959, Summit, NJ) enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute in 1979 to study sculpture under the tutelage of Dale Eldred and Jim Leedy.
After the rigors of academia Robinson began to shift his focus from sculpture to painting. “The change in medium suited my temperament. Painting allowed me to get to ideas quicker.” He stayed in Kansas City and partook of its burgeoning art scene at the Random Ranch and Left Bank galleries. From conventional subject matter – the figure – came unconventional work. The Campfire Girls series. “I liked to take things apart and put them back together again a little differently.”
After a decade of work in Kansas City, Robinson was ready to move back east. In 1992 he was living in New York City and painting at a prodigious rate. Figures took a backseat to Flags of his own invention and a growing personal iconography (e.g. key, horse, bridge, dog). The works were “adulations of symbols, odes on objects.” Building up a canvas in layers of paint and then coaxing an image from this rich surface the work took on an almost sculptural quality. To add to the overt physicality, he would frequently cut and reassemble the canvas as he proceeded to its conclusion.
Within his first months New York, he began exhibiting at the Meisner/SoHo gallery and continued to show there over the next few years. In the mid-90’s Robinson was taking part in the rebirth of art in New York by involving himself in several group shows around the city (e.g.GenArt and Oracle). He also began exhibiting in other galleries, including the project room of the Jason McCoy Gallery.
The design elements of the Flags informed a new series inspired by a childhood favorite, Spirograph. “Initially, I was exploring the subtleties of design but I got caught up in the sculptural possibilities of it. I made a large 12:1 scale Spirograph machine out of wood which I used it in the creation of the original Spiro series. It was important for me to go through the process of designing and making it if for no other reason than to bring me back to working three-dimensionally.”
The Shirt drawings and paintings were born of this restlessness with subject and material. As always, inspiration comes from unexpected sources. The idea came to Robinson in NYC via a chance encounter with a friend who was on his way to Goodwill with a pile of clothes. Robinson saw “the shirt,” was struck by its graphic quality, put it on – added the one he had been wearing to the pile – and wore it home. So began the series, Same Shirt Different Day.
In 1999 his love of literature and his proximity to the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan (“8 miles of Books”) led to the next series, Libris. Of late Rooflines and Chairs have become areas of interest. Robinson lives and works in Roanoke neighborhood of Kansas City with his wife, author/illustrator Courtney Watkins and daughter Mary Charles.