Under the Sun is the first Israeli museum exhibition devoted to the work of Robin Rhode (b. 1976, Cape Town; lives and works in Berlin). Rhode creates in the mediums of drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, video, and installation art. He uses a range of materials including chalk, charcoal, and soap, as well as the human body – the artist’s own body and the bodies of others.
Rhode was raised in Johannesburg, where his artistic approach was consolidated during the post-Apartheid period. Local street murals, as well as the paintings created by Rhode and his friends on the walls of their school, continue to serve as sources of inspiration for his work. Another school-related experience that has left an imprint on his work was the initiation rituals during which older students forced the newcomers to treat these paintings as if they were real – by pretending, for instance, that they were riding a painted bicycle. The absurdity of these childhood rituals, with their abusive overtone, has been assimilated into Rhode’s work, evolving into an intriguing combination of drawing and physical actions.
His works are often initiated as wall drawings that subsequently develop into performances, in which the artist, an actor, or sometimes both, respond to the represented image. Since these actions are ephemeral, and since the drawings are destined to be erased at one point or another due to their location in the public sphere, the final product is presented as a series of photographs or a video. The artistic object is thus the documentation of an event unfolding outside the art world; it is a vestige of an energetically charged, physical occurrence that persists long after the traces of movement, tension, and sweat dissolve and disappear. The power of the artistic objects created by Rhode - videos, photographs, or sculptures – thus paradoxically lies in their fundamental loss of power in comparison to what once existed outside, in the street, under a blazing sun.
Rhode exploits the public sphere as a platform for exploring issues on the international agenda, as well as ones specifically related to life in South Africa. Rooted in urban youth culture, his works touch upon questions of culture, identity, and history, and are characterized by a hip-hop rhythm and by the power of graffiti paintings.
(Photo: Robin Rhode, Under the Sun, 2017, (detail), c-print, 36 parts each: 50 x 50 cm, Courtesy the artist , Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York and Hong Kong, Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv)