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Haus der Kunst Presents Robin Rhode. Walk Off
Robin Rhode, Soap and Water, 2007, Soap, steel, bronze & water, Bicycle: 188 x 114 x 64 cm. Bucket: 30 x 33 x 30 cm. Courtesy Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York and carlier | gebauer, Berlin. © Robin Rhode.

MUNICH, GERMANY.-Haus der Kunst presents Robin Rhode. Walk Off through January 6, 2008. In baseball, a team immediately leaves the playing field following a walk off home run. For Robin Rhode the walk off is the last painting in a series or the last line of a drawing, the thing that sets the tone for the entire work. With this final line or painting, he releases the viewer from the work or series.

Robin Rhode draws a candle and tries to blow it out; he paints a bicycle and tries to move it; he sits down in front of a white wall and plays the drums, which he has painted in black paint on that very wall. This combination of drawing and performance is characteristic of his work. The artist also photographs or films himself during these actions, from either above or frontally. His means of expression thus also include, in addition to performance, photographic series, slide projections, digital animation and films.

Robin Rhode was born in Cape Town in 1976. He belongs to a generation of post apartheid artists that "very quickly took care of herself without waiting for the approval of the previous generation, that of its teachers," as Thomas Boutoux stated. Rhode attended film school following the completion of his studies in fine arts at Witwatersrand Technikon in Johannesburg. In 1997 he began to integrate objects in his works that he drew in chalk on walls or floors. For the artist, chalk is a material that is associated with memory: "Chalk was stolen from the classroom and the senior boys would draw elementary objects, such as candles and bicycles, directly onto the walls of the toilets. The younger pupil was then forced to interact with the drawn object, either trying to blow out the candle or to ride the bicycle." (Robin Rhode, 2005)

Initially his performances were often – as they still are sometimes today – actions born out of the moment. Their sources of inspiration and place of activity is the street; in 2002, Robin Rhode moved to Berlin, but it continues to be the streets of Johannesburg in which he finds his main inspiration.

A central theme of his art is general human wishfulness. In the beginning there is often a wish. In "Score", for instance, it is the wish to play in a band: Robin Rhode paints a trumpet, bass and drums on a wall; tones and melodies come out of a CD player and he then 'plays' the given instrument that corresponds to the given sound. By treating the imagined space, which exists simply as a drawing, as real, he creates his own reality in which the viewer also begins to believe. As an artist, he takes his fate into his own hands and gives it a decisive twist: "Sometimes if you have nothing, you actually have everything." (Robin Rhode)

During the last two years, Robin Rhode has begun to make sculptures for the first time. In so doing, he does not turn his back on his previous means of expression and the momentariness of his performances; rather, it is much more the same spontaneous and dynamic energy, which is typical of his drawings and performances, that is expressed in the materially captured form of sculpture. In "Empties (Green)", from 2007, the necks of Black Label beer bottles grow organically out of a beer crate. The quality of drawing is retained through the line-like beer necks, the momentariness through the graphic quality of the shadows on the floor and wall. Another sculpture from 2007 depicts a green bike made of soap with a water-filled bronze bucket next to it: when the bike is washed, it dissolves into soap. With the work "Chalk and Charcoal Shells", the artist casts charcoal and chalk in the shape of abalone shells, painting directly on the wall with them until they either fall apart or are all used up. Thus, even a sculpture is threatened with disappearance or ends up as a drawing.

The exhibition in the Haus der Kunst is the artist's first comprehensive solo show in a European institution, with the contemplation of drawing, in an all-encompassing sense, as its point of departure. On view are drawings, photographs, animations, film projects, slide projections and sculptures. The show's emphasis is on the artist's most recent developments, although both the path to them and their sources are made obvious. Rhode's handling of the line has become more expressive over the years; his subject matter, once characterized by street culture, has attained a poetic and abstract quality; colors are now often restricted to black and white.

In the middle room, which forms the heart of the exhibition, Robin Rhode will create a wall drawing and develop a performance together with the dancer Jean-Baptiste André and the composer Thomas Larcher: 88 shoes made of black coal and white chalk will be arranged like the keys of a piano. Jean-Baptiste André will wear these shoes. His choreography, developed together with Robin Rhode, will be a response to the percussion music composed by Thomas Larcher, so that a drawing is created. The exhibition will be opened with this performance on Saturday, September 15, at 7 pm.

The catalogue, "Robin Rhode. Walk Off," will be published by Hatje Cantz; it is edited by Stephanie Rosenthal and includes texts by Thomas Boutoux, André Lepecki and Stephanie Rosenthal; 184 pages; ca. 550 color illustrations, ca. € 39.80, ISBN 978-3-7757-2005-2.

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