Michael A. Robinson lives and works in Montreal. He teaches sculpture and drawing at UQAM's Department of Visual and Media Arts (2007-present) and recently as full-time Artist in Residence, MFA Sculpture, at Concordia University (2016-2017). He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University, in Montreal and a Masters of Fine Arts from Université de Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne. Mr. Robinson is a multidisciplinary artist, producer of sculptural installations, drawings, cast works, and image based works. His projects examine the creative gesture, its conditions of emergence, and the position of the artist in face of art world conventions. Working with immediacy, his work valourizes questioning and opening over conclusions and affirmations. His work is reflexive, critical, and materially speculative.
Recent solo exhibitions include, The Object as Evidence, SL Gallery, New York, New York, 2019, The Gift of Oblivion 2018, Galerie Diagonale, Montreal, and Either/And 2016, which was presented at ArtHelix, Brooklyn, New York. Group shows include Spring Break Art Show NYC, 2020, Other Worlds, Washington Project for the Arts, Washington D.C., 2016 and Diphthong, Shirley Fiterman Gallery, New York, New York, 2015. His works are part of numerous public and private collections, including the Museé d'art contemporain de Montreal (MAC), the Musée nationale des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Canada Council Art Bank.
” …that this strategy is a strategy without any finality; for this is what I hold and what in turn holds me in it’s grip, the aleatory strategy of someone who admits that he does not know where he is going… I should like it also to be like a headlong flight straight towards the end, a joyous self-contradiction, a disarmed desire, that is to say something very old and very cunning, but which also has just been born and delights in being without defense.”
- Jacques Derrida, The Time of a Thesis: Punctuations, in Philosophy in France Today, ed. Alan Montefiore, Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 34-50.
Strongly affected by this quote from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, I often muse that it could easily describe my approach to making art.
Employing formalist and conceptual approaches, my work plays deliberately on the mixing and juxtaposing of creative strategies as they relate to modernism and to contemporary art. I mix ideas and intuitions, with material playfulness and invention, privileging immediacy over tedium, questioning and opening over conclusions and affirmations.
I often work with objects harvested from my everyday life. For me, recontextualizing objects as ‘art materials’ is a way of drawing attention to the sometimes hidden meanings of objects, the role objects play in our lives and to what we think is and isn’t art.
THE GIFT OF OBLIVION
‘’Forgetting, waiting. Waiting that assembles, disperses; forgetting that disperses, assembles. Waiting, forgetting.’’ Maurice Blanchot ‘Awaiting Oblivion’ "
The Gift of Oblivion is an attempt to present images and ideas in the state of their own becoming. For this reason, all of the works in the exhibition are "veiled," in their various ways, both materially and through ideas. More specifically, the exhibition foregrounds creative "beginnings" over "endings," in the hopes of generating moments of anticipation and suspended animation. Self-analytical and reflexive, the installations and images presented are born of an "everyday phenomenology," one that might develop out of any situation or at any moment in time (scrolling through Instagram, or shopping at a Dollar Store). Exploring the materiality of light, "the image" as an "object," and the materiality of titles, The Gift of Oblivion also examines less frequently pondered aspects of sculptural materiality and their relationships to contemporary installation art. To Robinson, there exists nothing more satisfying than the oblivion wherein all things are possible. An oblivion where all objects are equally pregnant with potential and where the difference between choosing or fabricating matters less than giving shape and weight to the medium of experience. This is how oblivion might also be considered a gift.
DRAWING WITH OBJECTS THROUGH IMAGE
These new image-based works are an extension of my drawing practice, which has always been an important aspect of my artistic production. They are also anchored in the experiences that occur during my studio practice; discoveries that nourish my installation projects.
Working with image has become a way for me to share the spontaneity and invention that occurs from day to day, but which previously never resulted in finished works. As characterizes all of my work, they are sometimes conceptual and sometimes strictly formal. But they are always thrilling discoveries for me and have turned my daily practice into an adventure.
EITHER/AND, ARTHELIX, BROOKLYN, NYC
Of the various collected objects in Michael A. Robinson’s studio—a Home Depot shopping cart, a flashing LED open sign, dozens of dollar store wall clocks—among the most abundant are books. On top of the pile these days is Neomaterialism by Joshua Simon, Forgetting the Art World by Pamela M. Lee, and an anthology of writing by Antonin Artaud. Robinson’s installation art is informed by this kind of research and it is from here that we can begin to unravel the sense of his new work for Either/And, the artist’s first NYC solo exhibition. Elaborating a theory of the "unreadymade"art critic and writer Joshua Simon questions materiality, the role of manufactured objects in contemporary art, and the social and political implications of such use.
"Most commodities live longer than their creators and consumers alike—even a simple plastic bag will outlive us all many, many times over. Therefore, as all objects that enter into this world are commodities, we must realize that this is not our world, but rather theirs. We dwell in the world of commodities." Pamela M. Lee’s timely book questions the "work" of art's world," a way of questioning art's mattering and its materialization, pointing out that the activity performed by the art object is completely continuous with the world it inhabits and creates.
So, what are the ties that bind art to the art world? What decisions taken every step of the way from the idea, to the studio, from the gallery, to the art fair and museum contribute to the global art system and structure that many consider untenable and complicit with neo-liberal economic policies? Antonin Artaud, originally a surrealist, believed in the efficacy of vital and resonant associations between objects and ideas. This effect is extended in Robinson’s most recent installation Vida, lucida, Toshiba, 2016 which features the sound work, Sinoms, 1989, by Canadian artist Michael Snow. The mesmerizing effect of this "artwork, within an artwork" adds a level of artistic obfuscation that complexifies authorship and translates into dramatic theatricality. While revisiting assemblage art, which began with dada and surrealism, Robinson’s new works are unequivocally future-oriented. A "What then must we do?" attitude imbues all of the work in Either/And, reminding us that beyond its seductive surface, the political and ethical matter-of-factness of contemporary art speaks our world and that actualizing it with passion and imagination must become our mission.