Paintings by Craig Robertson

Search Party

Alternative Spaces – Craig Robertson: art of a trickster
by Amy Sparks – Cleveland Edition – Feb 21-27 1991

There are several ironies in playing the art game in Cleveland.  It requires playing by rules that no one has bothered to write down, or I suspect, have been encrusted in oil and encaustic and are in a vault somewhere on the east side.  If you don’t play by the slippery rules – which gets you local notoriety, legitimacy, exhibitions and sales – you can choose two paths.  Try bending or breaking the rules (don’t forget to smile), or play off the board entirely.

If an artist says there is no place in Cleveland to show his or her work, you know they are lying.  There are many, many places to show work – bank lobbies, restaurants, clubs, vanity galleries, beat-up storefronts, theater lobbies, malls, offices, frame shops, arts and crafts shops, schools.  The artists has the satisfaction of knowing that their technicolor hearts and souls grace the bent heads of diners crunching on arugula, prowling shoppers, worried bankers, sleek, numbed dancers, workers who could not care less, people who think looking at art always requires cafe au lait afterwards.  But there are very few places that bestow the kind of “legitimacy” that artists need – or think they need.  The kind of legitimacy offered those who have successfully passed GO and schmoozed the hotel owners on Boardwalk.

Two individual artists opened solo shows last week that are, if not off the board, off the beaten track. …

Artist Craig Robertson is a trickster, one who shuns the urban art game in favor of his farm and the company of his goat, Satan.  He despises government grants for art, academia, and general art-world pretentiousness.  His works are by turns raw and primitive, beautiful and disconcerting.  A sample of them can be seen at the law office of Jean Brandt, a high-ceilinged storefront in Tremont at 1028 Kenilworth, near Lincoln Park.

This is the second art show Jean Brandt has organized, the first being 22 works by Terry Durst last December. She has minimal guidelines: She will only present work she likes, send out postcards, and buy a twelve-pack of Dos Equis for the opening.  This is art among friends, for friends and anyone else who wants to see it.  This is about loving art and wanting to be in the midst of it all day long.

Here Robertson shows two large paintings that are strung like hides between heavy wooden frames.  Both are lushly painted and varnished, and quite eerie.  In Search Party a flat, unbroken field holds four figures: three men searching for something, and a woman, naked and open to the sky behind a wall of spiky red vines.  There is disturbing unreality about the painting.  The other, Tangle of Incidents in an Angle of Incidence is a night scene of a stout, leafless tree caught in the glare of unseen headlights.  Among its bare branches death’s head moths grin and glitter.  He also shows four “voodoo boxes”  – painted wooden vessels holding images from his farm (chicken leg, larva, his goat, and a gate adorned with bones). Strung onto three poles that act as spiky stands, they are fetish objects caught in a static, unbalanced dance.  They are images that capture what it’s like to be an artist who refuses to play the game.

Paintings  -  Craig Robertson
February 15 – March 31,  1991

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