Robin Rhode (b. Cape Town, 1976) is a South African artist based in Berlin, Germany. He studied Fine Art at Technikon Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by a postgraduate program at AFDA, the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance in Johannesburg.
Rhode is a multidisciplinary artist who engages in a variety of visual languages such as photography, performance, drawing and sculpture to create arrestingly beautiful narratives that are brought to life using quotidian materials such as soap, charcoal, chalk and paint. Coming of age in a newly post-apartheid South Africa, Rhode was exposed to new forms of creative expression motivated by the spirit of the individual rather than dictated by a political or social agenda. The growing influence of hip-hop, film, and popular sports on youth culture as well as the community’s reliance on storytelling in the form of colorful murals encouraged the development of Rhode’s hybrid street-based aesthetic. His strategic interventions transform urban landscapes into imaginary worlds, compressing space and time, as two-dimensional renderings become the subject of three-dimensional interactions by a sole protagonist, usually played by the artist or by an actor inhabiting the role of artist. Melding individual expressionism with broader concerns, Rhode’s work reveals a mastery of illusion, a rich range of historical and contemporary references, and an innate skill for blending high and low art forms. Rhode often returns to his native South Africa, creating work in the streets of Johannesburg. An outstanding characteristic of his works is his addressing of social concerns in a playful and productive manner, incorporating these issues into his practice without simplifying or judging them.
Reminiscent of practices of street culture, Rhode usually works in public spaces, using walls, public basketball courts or just the street as his "canvas". His preferred materials are easily accessible ones like charcoal and paint. As a result, his works stand out through their simplicity and their formal clarity, emphasising the idea over lavishness of production. Rhode transforms simple shapes into elements of narratives, interacting with only imagined presences. This narrative practice goes back to an initiation ritual at South African high schools – that Rhode himself experienced – where new students are forced to draw and interact with their drawing. Rhode's reference to this event takes this social gesture further into a playful mode of addressing cultural phenomena. Rhode also pays homage to the fervent utopian ideals of the Bauhaus, implicating Oskar Schlemmer's seminal Triadic Ballet from the twenties, a performance experiment created in the Bauhaus studios in the absence of a theatre space, balancing "emotional impulses" with an agenda of political agitation. His drawings of objects like a bicycle, a motorbike, a car, or of abstract shapes and patterns are employed as physical elements in a story, often alluding to the act of creation itself.
Rhode's earlier practice was dominated by performances which took place first on the streets, later in museums and galleries. One of the most popular performances is, "Car Theft" (2003, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN) where Rhode appears as a hooded character in street clothes who first draws a car on the wall and then tries to break in, eventually throwing a stone at the drawn object; highlighting his signature method of attempting to playfully transform flat renderings of everyday objects into illusory three-dimensional ones through his physical interactions. Very much a provocateur and cultural subversive, he shares conceptual links with artists as varied as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hammons and the Russian constructivists. Rhode is realising his own personal vision of the world that surrounds him, using art as a means to approach and reflect it in an interdisciplinary practice that goes beyond established borders of genres and traditional ways to engage with art. In "Skipping Rope" (2005, Musée ďArt Moderne de la Ville de Paris/ARC) Rhode interacted with the audience, engaging them into playing with an imaginary rope. The spectators became participants, taking part in Rhode's imagination that continuously seeks to reach beyond the boundaries of traditional artist-spectator roles.
In November 2009 Rhode collaborated with Norwegian concert pianist, Leife Ove Andsnes in a reimagining of Modest Mussorgsky’s, “Pictures at an Exhibition”. This collaboration titled, “Pictures Reframed” features Rhode’s stop-frame video animations. Rhode was responsible for the stage design and all visual accompaniments for Andsnes' contemporary exploration of Modest Mussorgsky's piano suite which premiered at the Lincoln Center, New York City.
In 2014 Irish rock band U2 invited Rhode to direct a music video for their single, “Every Breaking Wave”. The music video includes some of Rhode’s signature stop frame animation stencil drawings with figures interacting with these drawings.
Trajectory of exhibitions
In 2005, Rhode was featured in the 51st Venice Biennale and New Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2007 he had a large-scale exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, curated by Stephanie Rosenthal accompanied by his first monograph, "Walk Off", published by Hatje Cantz. In September 2008 he had solo shows at both the Hayward Gallery and White Cube Gallery, London and participated in Prospect.1 New Orleans, the New Orleans Biennale curated by Dan Cameron. In 2009, Robin Rhode presented a solo exhibition titled, "Catch Air" at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio. In 2010 Rhode had a solo exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) featuring performances, wall drawings, photographic series, objects, video animations and film. The Castello di Rivoli invited Rhode to exhibit in 2011, resulting in "Paries Pictus" - Rhode’s interactive and performative educational project. 'Paries Pictus' is the Latin word for wall drawing. This project invited children to use oversized crayons and to colour-in large scale geometric vinyl graphics applied directly to the walls by the artist. Rhode saw this project as a way of nurturing growth and creativity in youths through visual arts and contemporary art. 2013 saw Rhode’s first solo exhibition in Australia, "The Call of Walls" at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. This exhibition consisted of two gallery spaces- the first space displaying Rhode’s unique blend of fine art, street culture and performance through his photography and animation. The other space incorporating "Paries Pictus", previously staged in Turin, Italy; New York, USA and Cape Town, South Africa In 2014 Rhode presented a new exhibition titled, "Animating the Everyday" at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York. This show was a 10 year survey into Rhode’s digital videos. 22 works were shown focussing on the digital videos that Rhode classifies as “animations”. It also included photographic series that complemented these time-based works. The Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm, Sweden invited Rhode to exhibit in 2015. This culminated in "The Sudden Walk" and included a performance with one of Rhode’s long-term collaborators, the dancer, Jean-Baptiste André, who performed the piece, "Light Giver Light Taker" at the opening.
Works in public collections
Rhode's work is included in the collections of numerous international institutions and private collectors, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA; the Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany; George Economou Collection, Athens, Greece; the Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg, South Africa; the South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; the Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, Germany; Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), Paris, France; Lauren and Benedikt Taschen Collection, Los Angeles, USA; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa; the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami; the collection of Frac Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France; Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo, Norway; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; the Orange County Museum of Art, Orange County, CA, USA; the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; the Fonds national d'art contemporain (Puteaux), Paris, France; and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France.
Selected solo exhibitions and performances
- Erwartung, a reintepretation of Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 opera, Times Square, New York (November 2015, Opera Performance)
- Drawing Waves, The Drawing Center, New York (2015, Solo Exhibition)
- The Sudden Walk, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm (2015, Solo Exhibition and Performance)
- Animating the Everyday, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, New York (2014, Solo Exhibition)
- The Call of Walls, NGV, Melbourne, Australia (2013, Solo Exhibition)
- Let in the Outside, Tucci Russo, Torre Pellicce, Italy (2011, Solo Exhibition)
- Paries Pictus, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2011, Solo Exhibition)
- Robin Rhode, LACMA, Los Angeles, CA (2010, Solo Exhibition)
- Robin Rhode and Leif Ove Andsnes: Pictures Reframed, New York, NY (2009, Performance)
- Robin Rhode, Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, NY (2009, Solo Exhibition)
- Catch Air: Robin Rhode, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2009, Solo Exhibition)
- Through the Gate, White Cube Gallery, London, UK (2008, Solo Exhibition)
- Who Saw Who, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2008, Solo Exhibition)
- Promenade, Tucci Russo, Torre Pellicce, Italy (2008, Solo Exhibition)
- Walk Off, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2007, Solo Exhibition)
- All About Laughter: The Role of Humour in Contemporary Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2007, Performance)
- Robin Rhode, Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, NY (2007, Solo Exhibition)
- Robin Rhode, Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2006, Solo Exhibition)
- The Storyteller, FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, France (2006, Solo Exhibition)
- The Storyteller, carlier | gebauer, Berlin, Germany (2006, Solo Exhibition)
- Empieza el Juego, Zaragoza, Madrid, Spain (2006, Solo Exhibition)
- Street Smart, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL (2005, Solo Exhibition)
- Robin Rhode, Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York, NY (2004, Solo Exhibition)
- The Score, Artists Space, New York, NY (2004, Performance)
- Fresh, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2000, Performance)
- Living in Public, Market Theatre Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa (2000, Performance)
- Roy R. Neuberger Exhibition Prize, New York, NY, USA (2014)
- Young Artist Award, A.T. Kearney, Germany (2011)
- Winner, Illy Prize, Art Brussels, Brussels, Belgium (2007)
- Winner, W South Beach Commission, Art Positions at Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami, FL
- ars viva 05/06 Identität/Identity, Award, Berlin, Germany (2005)
- Artist-in-Residence, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2003)
- Artist-in-Residence, The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Boston, MA (2003)
- Artist-in-Residence, Karl Hofer Gesellschaft (HDK) Berlin, Germany (2001)
- Artist-in-Residence, Gasworks Gallery, London, UK (2001)
- Artist-in-Residence, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2000)
Robin Rhode’s company, Rhodeworks is responsible for the production and publication of various material associated with Rhode’s practice as well as independent projects.
- Robin Rhode: The Sudden Walk (2015)
- Don Mattera: The Five Magic Pebbles & Other Stories. Illustrated by Matthew Hindley (2014)
- Robin Rhode: Bones (2013)
- Robin Rhode: Paries Pictus - Activity Book (2013)
- Robin Rhode: Parabolic Bike (2010)
- Robin Rhode: Paper Planes (2010)
Vinyls published include:
- Robin Rhode: Recycled Matter (2015)
Recycled Matter is a Limited Edition Vinyl Record. The 16:00 minute drum solo performed by Marcel van Cleef functions as the score, or film soundtrack, to the animation created by Robin Rhode of the same name. With the production and arrangement realized by Robin Rhode and long-term collaborator Arenor Anuku, Recycled Matter functions as a musical extension of Rhode's performative ideas, where music, like drawing, inhibits hidden tempos and rhythms that plays itself out as layered filmic narratives.
- SKY KLINIC – INSTRUMENTALITY (2013)
The group Sky Klinic from Johannesburg, South Africa consists of four members: Brent "Sta-B" Williams - Beatmaker/Producer , Dustin "Hakim Deep" Malema - Lyricist/Producer, Ralton 'DJ Doe Man" - BeatMaker/Producer and recently Bongani "Bong" Khoza - Keyboardist/Recording Artist. Instrumentality is the first official project that has been released by Sky Klinic aside from online releases of mixtapes and EPs. It is an Instrumental Limited Edition LP, comprising seven tracks produced by Brent "Sta-B" Williams and features Bongani "Bong" Khoza on the Keys and Arrangement on the first and last tracks of the project. Robin Rhode is credited for the artwork and finishing of the project, including the grey vinyl.
- Edward Maclean - from Bamako to Abidjan (2013)
With this maxi vinyl Edward Maclean experimented at the interface between jazz and electronic music. 'From Bamako To Abidjan' is the most dynamic song of his LP 'Edward Maclean's Adoqué' – where spherical soundscapes meet a cracking West African beat. Edward Maclean’s own unique mix, mixed by Axel Reinemer (Jazzanova), leads the hypnotic brass riff into Acoustic House, and the Berlin Underground singer and producer Vinter penetrates with 'Departure' in a deep Techno realm.
- Derrick Adams - Go Stand next to the Mountain: Remix Project (The Reworks) (2012)
GO STAND NEXT TO THE MOUNTAIN REMIX PROJECT is a limited edition vinyl collectable album featuring remixed versions of songs from multidisciplinary artist Derrick Adams' collaborative endeavor with composer Philippe Treuille. The original songs for this new project were first presented during Adams' live performance of Go Stand Next To The Mountain at The Kitchen NYC in 2010. That performance included an original score by Treuille and an additional musical contribution by ART FOR MONEY recording artists CrashPlanet, MoPeshi and Ramon Rendezvous - all of whom appear in this new remix album. The experimental sound and context of the original performance is expanded into an alternative musical experience and conceptual work with a responsive album cover design, packaging and production by Rhodeworks, Berlin.
- Variants: Artwork by Robin Rhode (2012)
Produced by Rhode with arrangements by Arenor Anuku, 'Variants' is the soundtrack to six short films created by the artist for his show at White Cube, London in 2011. The films and artwork take the classic chair designs of Gerrit Rietveld, icons of modernity, as a source of inspiration to raise questions about identity. Each of the edition’s gatefold sleeves has been hand-stenciled by the artist at his studio in Berlin. Robin Rhode’s work often uses the street as his canvas or his backdrop, alluding to hip-hop and graffiti, and he often operates within the gritty aesthetic associated with that culture.
- Website of Robin Rhode's gallery, White Cube  London
- Website of Rhode's solo exhibition Who Saw Who at Hayward Gallery
- Modern Painters, Robin Rhode and William Kentridge in Conversation, June 2008
- Benjamin Genocchio, "Robin Rhode," The New York Times, June 8, 2007
- "Something There Is That Loves a Wall," Profile by Carol Kino, The New York Times, May 13, 2007
- Walk Off Edited by Stephanie Rosenthal, Exhibition catalogue, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit 2007
- Roberta Smith, "Art in Review; Robin Rhode," The New York Times, October 29, 2004
- Esther Addley, "Chalk Talk: the Wall and Floor Drawer Creating a stir on the Art Scene," The Guardian, 20 September 2008
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robin Rhode.|
- Robin Rhode. Walk Off. André Lepecki, edited by Stephanie Rosenthal, Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz 2007.
- Street Level. Mark Bradford, William Cordova, and Robin Rhode, edited by Trevor Schoonmaker. Exh. cat. Durham: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, 2007.
- Street Art, Street Life, edited by Linda Yee. Exh cat. New York: Aperture/Bronx Museum of the Arts, 2008.
- Robin Rhode: Who Saw Who. Michele Robecchi, Stephanie Rosenthal and James Sey. Exh. cat. London: Hayward Gallery, 2008.
- Catch Air: Robin Rhode. Catharina Manchanda and Claire Tancons, edited by Ann Bremner and Ryan Shafer, 2009.
- Leif Ove Andsnes and Robin Rhode: Pictures Reframed, 2009.
- InitiArt Magazine's in-depth interview with Robin Rhode on his art and life in Berlin, 2010.
- Robin Rhode: Variants, edited by Honey Luard. Exh. cat. London: White Cube, 2011.
- Robin Rhode: Paries Pictus, edited by Sophie Perryer.Exh. cat. Cape Town: Stevenson Gallery, 2013.
- Robin Rhode: The Call of Walls. Maggie Finch, edited by Mark Gomes. Exh. cat. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2013.
- Robin Rhode: Animating the Everyday. Helaine Posner and Louise Posner. Exh. cat. New York: Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College, 2014.
- Farago, Jason. 'Review: 'Drawing Waves and Borne Frieze, a Robin Rhode Twofer'. The New York Times, 6 August.
- Jayawardane, Neelika. 'Robin Rhode's Borne Frieze'. Africa is a Country (africasacountry.com), 16 July.
- Murg, Stephanie. 'Powerful statements, modest means: Robin Rhode's 'Born Frieze' opens at Lehmann Maupin'. Wallpaper*, 3 July.
- McDermott, Emily. 'Robin Rhode considers his past and present'. interviewmagazine.com, June.
- Corrigall, Mary. 'Robin Rhode's Great "Escape" Plan'. corrigall.blogspot.com, 29 April.
- Joja, Athi Mongezeleli. 'Writing's on the wall for Robin Rhode'. Mail & Guardian, 2 April.
- Smith, Tymon. 'The unbearable zaniness of an installation maestro'. Sunday Times, 29 March.
- Wee, Darryl. 'Robin Rhode Opens Solo Show at Lehmann Maupin'. Artinfo, 16 September.
- Cheung, Ysabelle. 'Robin Rhode: Having Been There'. Time Out Hong Kong.
- Kamaldien, Yazeed. 'Our Fragmented SA'.New Age, 11 April.
- Heinrich, Will. 'Robin Rhode: Take Your Mind Off the Street and 'Paries Pictus' at Lehmann Maupin'. Gallerist New York, 22 January.
- 'Robin Rhode'.Lehmann Maupin, 14 March.
- Leibbrandt, Tim. 'A gleeful sense of creative anarchism'. Artthrob, September.
- Ciccone, Terri. 'Robin Rhode's Playful New Show Crowdsources Art From a Classroom of Bronx Kids'. Artinfo, 24 January.
- Ting, Selina. 'Interview: Robin Rhode'. initiArt Magazine, April.
- O'toole, Sean. 'Wall Space: Robin Rhode's homecoming exhibition revisits his roots'. Wanted Magazine, 12 May.
- Corrigall, Mary. 'The Art of Abstraction'. Sunday Independent, 2 June.
- Finch, Maggy. 'Robin Rhode: The Call of Walls'. NGV Media, 15 April.
- 'Visual Artist Robin Rhode speaks on South Africa Exhibit'. Life and Times, 15 April.
- 'Robin Rhode: Take your mind off the Street'. Lehmann Maupin, January.
- Bosland, Joost & Odufane, Bomi. 'Peer Conversation'. Omeka Magazine.
- 'Robin Rhode Is ON OUR RADAR: South African Street Artist Is Serious About His Work'. Huffpost, 14 January.
- 'Take Your Mind Off The Street; Beyond Architecture'. The Hue from Here, 26 January.
- Rossouw, Chad. 'Interview with Robin Rhode'. Artthrob, 10 May.
- 'Robin Rhode: Lehmann Maupin'. Art Forum, March.
- Alice. 'Robin Rhode's New Street-based Performance Pieces'. My Modern Met, 10 January.
- Northover, Kylie. 'Another trick on the wall'. Saturday Age, 18 May.
- Mizota, Sharon. 'Art Review: Robin Rhode at L & M Arts'. Los Angeles Times, 22 March.
- Zellen, Jody. 'Robin Rhode: "Imaginary Exhibition" at L&M Arts: '. Art Ltd, May.
- Ollman, Leah. 'Robin Rhode keeps chalking 'em up'. Los Angeles Times, 22 March.
- Sanson, Anna. 'Robin Rhode: The Magician '. Whitewall, June. part 1
- Sanson, Anna. 'Robin Rhode: The Magician '. Whitewall, June. part 2
- Walsh, Brienne. 'Robin Rhode takes Hollywood'. Art in America, 25 March.
- Princenthal, Nancy. 'Robin Rhode'. Art in America, 1 January.
- Tomassini, Anthony. 'Sound and Vision: A Piano Recital with a New Multimedia Heart'. New York Times, 15 November.
- Davidson, Justin. 'When Brushstrokes Met Keystrokes'. New York Magazine, 23 August.