October 21 – November 19, 2011
320 West 13th Street, entrance on Horatio Street, between Eighth Avenue and Hudson Street
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11-6
New York is known as the cultural capital of many things: food, theater, journalism and, last but not least, art. And within the art world, the Chelsea neighborhood is a home base. However, plenty of galleries, established or independent, exist outside the realm of Chelsea, and one of them, White Columns, was originally located in the neighborhood that was the artistic center of NYC long before Chelsea: SoHo. Founded in 1970, White Columns is now located on the border of the Meatpacking District and West Village, and lays claim to being one of the city’s oldest alternatives art spaces.
Currently on exhibit is the work of self-taught artist, Prophet Royal Robertson (1931-1997), in a show called NO PROUD BASTARDS. Curated by New York-based artists, Erik Parker and Scott Ogden, this show is the first in-depth exhibit of Robertson’s work in New York.
In their exhibition statement, Parker and Ogden put it best when they say Robertson “perhaps unintentionally created some of the most extraordinary ‘Pop’ art of the 20th Century.” Both artist/curators had visited Robertson’s Baldwin, Louisiana home back in 1996 while studying art at The University of Texas at Austin and were afforded a rare opportunity to see firsthand the apocalyptic hand-made signs and paintings Robertson created with ideas that came mostly from just his mind. (Also, Ogden co-directed with Malcolm Hearn a documentary on self-taught artists called Make, which features the artist.) Thread throughout all his works are ideas of space travel and the notion that Robertson himself was a mystic and prophet. These pieces, such as ones featuring space ships docked in an alien land, had covered practically the whole interior walling of his home. On the outside, the exterior of his house was completely covered with signs, ones that exuded a unique ironic quality, perhaps a result of the amusing juxtaposition of beguilingly beautiful hand-lettering of a crass or frantic message, like “No Divorced Whores Allowed.”
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the show is the immediate feeling of awe in the sophistication and talent that Robertson possessed. Though he had been a sign painter by trade, Robertson did not have any formal training or intention to become an artist, and yet was able to create a refined and sometimes humorous collection of work.
Photograph by Frédéric Allamel