Robin Rhode: Memory Is The Weapon

Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany
28 Sep 2019 - 09 Feb 2020

Robin Rhode, Paradise, 2016 © Courtesy of the artist

Robin Rhode, Paradise, 2016 © Courtesy of the artist

For the exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, the South African artist Robin Rhode ventures into new territory, namely into the historic city of Jericho in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict region.

In March 2019, new works for his exhibition in Wolfsburg were created on old walls from the time of the Ottoman Empire which subtly address the history of Jericho, the three world religions practiced there, and the Middle East conflict.

In doing so, Robin Rhode remains true to the distinguishing feature of his multimedia oeuvre: the tension-filled combination of line, body and wall as image carrier. Step by step, he develops and animates the line through performative interaction with the body until it defines an abstract form or object. His trademark is a wall that stands in a socially disadvantaged district of Johannesburg, which he has used over the past eight years. The influence of urban music culture, film, popular sports, youth culture, and the local tradition of storytelling have influenced the development of the street art aesthetic that was initially typical for Robin Rhode. In contrast to street art and graffiti art, however, he is not concerned with what he leaves behind in the urban context, but rather with the process. The artwork is the photographic documentation of the development of his narratives.

Since 2002, Robin Rhode has lived in Berlin. In contrast to the colorful wall works that are still created in South Africa, in Germany he explores black-and-white approaches to drawing. Here, he draws not only with soap, charcoal, chalk, and paint, but also with everyday objects. Chairs, bicycles, and beds become performative drawing instruments—an instrumentalization of the Readymade. The expressive drawings resulting from his energetic performances stand in contrast to the perfected illusionism and the intended lightness of his elaborate wall pieces. Robin Rhode reduces complex, at times even socially critical or analytical content to a few visual signs or, as he puts it, simplifies chaos with the means of art.

After the exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich in 2007, the presentation at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is the first solo exhibition in Germany since twelve years. With more than 800 square meters of digital animations, photographic series, drawings, and sculptural elements, as well as performances, it offers a broad overview of Robin Rhode’s oeuvre, including new work groups, on which he is currently working. The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog in German and English, including a preface by Andreas Beitin, an extensive interview with Robin Rhode and an introduction by Uta Ruhkamp.