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Robin Rhode Showcased in LACMA's 12th Contemporary Projects Exhibition

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Contemporary Projects 12: Robin Rhode, an exhibition of the artist’s recent work, including photo compositions, video animation, sculpture, installation, and a charcoal wall drawing made solely for LACMA. On view from March 11 to June 6, 2010, the body of work represents Rhode’s ongoing interest in urban street culture and his South African identity, as well as his unique practice of combining drawing and performance.

“Robin Rhode is an artist with a unique vision who embraces play and whimsy as unlikely means to deal with serious contemporary topics,” says LACMA curator Leslie Jones. “We’re honored to host his first Los Angeles exhibition and excited to showcase his wall drawing meant exclusively for LACMA.”

In 1998 Rhode chalked the image of a bicycle on a Johannesburg city wall, and then attempted to “ride” it. The action is captured in a series of photographs in which the artist fails to mount the “bike,” then checks the “tires” and “chain” before finally grabbing the “handlebars” and “pushing.” Inspired by a childhood initiation ritual wherein senior pupils forced younger ones to interact with objects drawn on the school lavatory walls, Rhode transforms a child’s game into a compelling and innovative form of expression. Since the late 1990s, Rhode has used photography to record his (or a doppelganger’s) interactions with drawings, resulting in photocompositions and video animations reminiscent of disassembled flip books and stop-action films that address important cultural, social, and political issues.

In the photocomposition Juggla (2007), an anonymous black man in bedraggled clothes and a top hat enters the frame and appears to toss or juggle two black balls that double as hands. Inspired in part by a famous Cape Town carnival (colloquially known as the Coon Carnival and officially as the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival) that involves numerous street performers, Rhode clearly alludes (through his costume choice and use of “old-fashioned” black-and-white photography) to the problematic history of minstrelsy.

In his sculpture Soap and Water (2007), Rhode continues to explore the image of the bicycle as a symbol of desire, as very few children in his Johannesburg neighborhood actually owned a bike. Like his chalk drawings, the material used to make this object is ephemeral. Made out of a green soap popular in South Africa, a life-size bicycle lies horizontally on the floor next to a metal bucket filled with water. The combination of soap and water suggests the possibility of the bicycle dissolving away, leaving only a sudsy mess and a memory.

Rhode’s other works on view include Kite (2008), an installation consisting of an image of two hands (the artist’s own) that “grasp” strings attached to a kite-shaped projection of treetops as viewed from below in a moving vehicle; Promenade (2008), a video animation that captures an anonymous performer’s playful, then precarious, encounter with diamond shapes rendered in chalk; and Pan’s Opticon (2008), a series of fifteen photographs featuring a black man in a black straw hat who appears to be drawing with an architect’s compass that projects from his eyes. Also on view will be a charcoal wall drawing to be executed as a performance on opening night. The performance will be videotaped and then
played throughout the duration of the exhibition.

In his unique and enthralling practice, Rhode, a self-described “postapartheid kid,” deftly negotiates South African culture and the history of art, opticality, and related politics of vision, and presents them in an innovative and compelling mise-en-scène that enchants as much as it enlightens.

Born in Cape Town in 1976, Rhode moved to Johannesburg in 1984, where he studied art at the Witwatersrand Technikon from 1995 to 1998 and film at the South African School of Film, Television, and Dramatic Arts until 2000. Currently based in Berlin, Rhode has shown extensively in Europe and New York, and his work has been the subject of three career-survey exhibitions at the Haus der Kunst, Munich; the Hayward Gallery, London; and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio. This is his first museum
exhibition in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art | Contemporary Projects 12 | Robin Rhode |

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