Let There Be (detail), Vernon Robinson Sr., 2010, 18×48, Acrylic on Canvas on Board
The closest I have gotten to a drug trip lately was visiting Walgreen’s after dark to get some antibiotics and a Russell Stover carmel.
I read somewhere that Vernon Robinson Sr.’s art takes viewers “on a life affirming Afro-surrealistic mind trip!” I might be too distant from those references to agree, but I found Robinson’s art more down to earth than that.
Some of Robinson’s paintings from 2006 to 2012 are collected in “How I See What I Saw,” displayed in one of U*Space’s colorful galleries.
The paintings in acrylic feature a love of swooping patterns, colors that remind the viewer of tropical fish, and portraits of eyes that seem to have visited other worlds. Yes, the fact that those eyes may have traveled could lead a person to think “mind trip.” Still, I don’t believe these are images that Robinson dreamed or hallucinated, or intended as a supplement to intoxication.
Robinson’s boldest works collect brilliant patterns like a quilter collects patches of fabric and shapes them into harmonious collages. In “Let There Be,” “Ain’t Nothing But the Blues,” and “The King is Coming II,” the compositions contain exuberant and daring combinations of swatches. They also ultimately observe symmetry across the plain of the canvas. Unlike a product of intoxication, these works represent controlled exploration. They are like an improvised solo, set against the repeating harmonic pattern of a blues.
Unlike the blues, most of Robinson’s paintings contain little that is dark or quiet or slow in tempo. His tone is generally bold, bright and steady. When the image includes those eyes mentioned before, they provide even more assurance of a guiding vision along the way. There will be no groping in the dark.
A series of small paintings, two-and-a-half by three-and-a-half inches, seems to be a departure from forms described by the music paintings, if I may call them that. These small paintings are from 2012. They look like a collection of brilliantly hued clouds, shifting, coalescing, but rarely hardening into anything like liquids or solids. Though the colors are bright, and though the canvases are diminutive, these works point toward a dimmer place that Robinson may be searching.
They may represent a less controlled exploration than symmetry allows. We look forward to Robinson’s future discoveries.
“How I See What I Saw,” Solo Exhibition of Vernon Robinson Sr. at U*Space Gallery on Edgewood Avenue through Feb 24, 2013.
Update: The U*Space gallery closed, according to an e-mail from owner Terence Jackson on December 2, 2013.