Robin Rhode

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Robin Rhode
Robin Rhode, 2018.jpg
Rhode in 2018
Born 1976 (age 41–42)
Cape Town, South Africa
Nationality South African
Occupation artist

Robin Rhode (born 1976 in Cape Town) is a South African artist based in Berlin, Germany. He studied Fine Art at Technikon Witwatersrand, now known as the University of Johannesburg, in Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by a postgraduate program at the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA).


Rhode is a multidisciplinary artist who uses a variety of visual languages such as photography, performance, drawing and sculpture to create narratives expressed through materials such as soap, charcoal, chalk and paint.[1] Coming of age in South Africa just after apartheid, Rhode was exposed to new forms of creative expression not motivated by a political or social agenda, but rather the spirit of the individual. 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. Rhode is best known for his photographic series that documents a sole protagonist interacting with murals the artist painted on public walls in Johannesburg and Berlin. In the succession of photographs, the movements of the actor appear to alter the two-dimensional renderings, compressing space and time and transforming the urban landscape into a fictional storyboard.[2] Melding individual expression with broader concerns, Rhode's work utilizes techniques of illusion, a range of historical and contemporary references, and a blending of high and low art forms.[3] Rhode often returns to his native South Africa, creating work in the streets of Johannesburg. It has been said that 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.

Rhode is represented by Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong;[4] Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg (South Africa);[5] Studio Per L'Arte Contemporanea Tucci Russo, Torre Pellice (Italy).[6] and kamel mennour, Paris and London.

Artistic practice[edit]

Robin Rhode, "the candle"

Reminiscent of practices of street art, 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, emphasizing 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, Leif 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

In 2015 Robin Rhode was the Artistic Director of the first-ever live production of an opera in Times Square: Arnold Schönberg's Erwartung – A Performance by Robin Rhode; conducted by Arturo Tamayo, and produced in partnership with Performa. The soprano Carole Sidney Louis[10] performed solo on a minimal stage created from printed sketches by Rhode, amidst the sky high buildings and billboards standing in for the dense forest illuminated only by moonlight that the opera is set in.[11]

In 2017 FNB JoburgArtFair was delighted to announce Robin Rhode as the 2017 Featured Artist [2]



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, 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.[12] The Castello di Rivoli invited Rhode to exhibit in 2011,[13] 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 and Cape Town, South Africa[14][15][16] 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.[17] The Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (sv) 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.[18] “Under the Sun”, Rhode’s first Israeli museum exhibition, opened at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2017.[19]

Works in public collections[edit]

Rhode's work is included in the collections of numerous international institutions and private collectors, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA),[20] 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; the Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany; South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; the Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, Germany; Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), Paris; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg; 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, California; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Fonds national d'art contemporain (Puteaux), Paris; and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Selected solo exhibitions and performances[edit]

  • Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland (October 2018, solo exhibition and performance)
  • Under the Sun, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2017, solo exhibition)[19]
  • The Moon is Asleep, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, USA (February 2016, solo exhibition and performance)
  • Arnold Schönberg's Erwartung – A Performance by Robin Rhode, Times Square, New York (November 2015, opera performance)
  • Robin Rhode: Robin Rhode, North Carolina Museum of Art, USA (September 2015, solo exhibition)
  • Drawing Waves, Drawing Center, New York (2015, solo exhibition)
  • The Sudden Walk, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm, Sweden (2015, solo exhibition and Performance)
  • Animating the Everyday, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York (2014, solo exhibition)
  • The Call of Walls, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2013, solo exhibition)
  • Paries Pictus, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2011, solo exhibition)
  • Robin Rhode, LACMA, Los Angeles (2010, solo exhibition)
  • Robin Rhode and Leif Ove Andsnes: Pictures Reframed, Lincoln Center, New York (2009, Performance)
  • Catch Air: Robin Rhode, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2009, solo exhibition)
  • Who Saw Who, Hayward Gallery, London, UK, USA (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 (2007, Performance)
  • The Storyteller, FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, France (2006, solo exhibition)
  • Empieza el Juego, Zaragoza, Madrid (2006, solo exhibition)
  • Street Smart, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2005, solo exhibition)
  • The Score, Artists Space, New York (2004, Performance)
  • Fresh, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2000, Performance)


  • Zurich Art Prize (2018)[21][22]
  • Roy R. Neuberger Exhibition Prize, New York (2014)
  • Young Artist Award, A.T. Kearney, Germany (2011)
  • Winner, Illy Prize, Art Brussels, Brussels (2007)
  • Winner, W South Beach Commission, Art Positions at Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami
  • ars viva 05/06 Identität/Identity, Award, Berlin (2005)
  • Artist-in-Residence, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2003)
  • Artist-in-Residence, The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Boston (2003)
  • Artist-in-Residence, Karl Hofer Gesellschaft (HDK) Berlin (2001)
  • Artist-in-Residence, Gasworks Gallery, London, UK (2001)
  • Artist-in-Residence, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (2000)


Rhode's company, Rhodeworks is responsible for the production and publication of various material associated with Rhode's practice as well as independent projects.[23]

Publications include:

  • 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:

  • Kurt Schwitters - URSONATE (2017)

South African artist William Kentridge reimagines one Dada classic, the sound poem Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters, a Hannover-based artist and publisher of the Dada magazine Merz. Schwitters created the Ursonate suite of sound poems between 1922 and 1932, and dedicated one issue of his magazine in 1925 to a vinyl record of the text.[24] The album cover was designed by RHODEWORKS.[25]

Ching Suru is a noise/experimental collective based near Lake Michigan. Consisting of Santiago Cucullu, Chuck Quarino and a rotating cast from moment to moment. Lately their efforts revolve around playing weddings, quinceañeras, Open Mic Nite at Little Rick's Tavern, and a weekly radio program which can be found on Riverwest Radio WXRW in Milwaukee 22:00 Central Standard Time. They feel a burning kinship to the words of the late American playwright Lorraine Hansberry on whose gravestone is written: "I care. I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care...The why of why we are here is an intrigue for adolescents. The how is what must command the living. Which is why I have lately become an insurgent again."

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 Rhode of the same name. With the production and arrangement realized by 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.

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. 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 AdamsGo 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 (New York City) 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.

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. 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.


  1. ^ Sargent, Antwaun. "Robin Rhode Draws on Everything". W Magazine. Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  2. ^ "Robin Rhode: Under the Sun - ELEPHANT Magazine". ELEPHANT. 2018-01-31. Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  3. ^ Rhode, Robin. "Artist Biography". Retrieved April 23, 2018. 
  4. ^ "Robin Rhode – Artists". Lehmann Maupin. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  5. ^ "STEVENSON | Robin Rhode". Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  6. ^ "Galleria Tucci Russo :: Artists". Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  7. ^ "Sound and Vision: A Piano Recital With a Multimedia Heart". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "U2 Release 'Every Breaking Wave' Video, From South African Artist Robin Rhode". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  10. ^ Arnold Schönberg's Erwartung – A Performance by Robin Rhode on YouTube
  11. ^ Forbes, Alexander (2015-11-10). "Robin Rhode Stages an Anxiety Attack in Times Square". Artsy. Retrieved 2018-05-12. 
  12. ^ "Contemporary Projects 12: Robin Rhode". LACMA. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  13. ^ "Robin Rhode, Paries pictus". Castello di Rivoli. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  14. ^ "Robin Rhode: The Call of Walls | NGV". 2013-09-15. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  15. ^ "Robin Rhode – Exhibitions". Lehmann Maupin. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  16. ^ "STEVENSON | Robin Rhode". 2013-06-01. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  17. ^ "Neuberger Museum of Art". 2014-08-10. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  18. ^ "Robin Rhode – The Sudden Walk". Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. 2014-12-22. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  19. ^ a b "Robin Rhode: Under the Sun - Tel Aviv Museum of Art". Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  20. ^ "Robin Rhode | MoMA". Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  21. ^ team, Museum Haus Konstruktiv. "THE ZURICH ART PRIZE 2018 GOES TO ROBIN RHODE". Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  22. ^ "Robin Rhode Awarded $100,000 Zurich Art Prize". Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  23. ^ "Rhodeworks". Rhodeworks. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  24. ^ "William Kentridge Incants Kurt Schwitters's Iconic Dada Sound Poem". Hyperallergic. 2017-11-06. Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  25. ^ "RHODEWORKS". Retrieved April 23, 2018. 

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

Selected bibliography[edit]