I crave and appreciate art that makes me linger and ponder. I never like thinking, “I could have done that” because even though I probably could if I tried, I rarely invest the time or energy to create art. I’m a writer by trade and I believe that is why I love artistic storytelling. I want to be challenged, like with an open-ended film that leaves things unresolved and forces you to interpret.
Art that literally requires multiple viewings is also an excellent indicator of superior craftsmanship. Just like with films that deserve repeated viewings to catch all the little details, so is the case with painter, Chad Robertson’s extraordinary work now at the Western Project. It will make your heart pound faster and your mind race wildly. It is pure adrenaline on canvas. You don’t need alcohol or drugs to enhance the viewing experience, but I’m sure it would be a life-changing trip like no other, if you tried it.
Robertson’s work requires a large canvas and a good amount of white wall space for you to breathe everything in. To view the series of paintings, online or by looking at the show postcard, does the work a great disservice. Robertson’s work is commanding, as well as demanding. You can find thematic references from all over popular culture and history. It is almost like a layered collage, but all the images you see are painted.
In order to paint these works requires a gifted eye for detail, and possibly a projector. When you view the paintings from different distances layer after layer is peeled away like an onion. To say a modern-day work would qualify as a masterpiece is a substantial title I would not label work freely. But as soon as I entered the gallery, there was no doubt in my mind that I was seeing a creation of a commanding mastermind.
To say I was impressed would be an understatement. It was the first time in a long while that I really had the urge to buy art again, and I’m a pretty avid art collector. The work felt tremendously important, like I had seen something that wasn’t just new, but an important artistic milestone. The themes explored are complex, the execution was continuously unexpected and it made me want to know everything about this artist as a person.
All this praise does not come lightly. I’m realizing more and more that I have become a true art snob, but also a very devoted art lover. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have an art history background, but I work in advertising as a copywriter and I am expected to be visually conceptual. I go to gallery openings because I want to feel and experience something new and walk away inspired to create, in some way. This show accomplished that in spades.
Even for artists who are on a different plain stylistically, I recommend you escape your studios and pay homage to Robertson’s work. I felt like I had entered a sacred Cathedral and the paintings were the stain glass windows brought to life with rays of light, yet the effect was all created by paint on canvas. If I were to try to describe each work independently it would sound like a chaotic mess, but believe me-It is a seamless symphony of balanced imagery, vibrant color and astonishingly precise technical skill. The only way to do the show any justice is to advise you to go see it first hand NOW!
I kick myself for not finding the artist and taking the opportunity to speak with him. I need to seek him out and invite him to lunch. Art is often times a very personal glimpse into the mind of a person and based on his brilliant work, Chad Robertson must be a modern-day visionary who would make for a very engaging dinner party guest. The range of topics and themes he explored demonstrates an extremely well-read and thoughtful personality, most likely with the IQ of a genius.
I want his brain. I want his skill. I want his work. His paintings are like complex maps and depending on how lazy the viewer is, you might even need a personal guide to take you on the artist’s wondrous journey. Oh, and he was smart not to limit his works with titles-He leaves it open to you and dares you to try to sum up his work. Good luck and enjoy.
Disparate Collectives Chad Robertson On view till October 8th, 2011
Western Project 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 310.838.0609 western-project.com