Thursday, 22 May 2014

David Robilliard: The Yes No Quality of Dreams


I first saw this artist/poet's work a long time ago in an exhibition at the Southbank Centre. The combination of sparse line-work and typography really appealed to me, being a graphic/illustration student at the time. They really left an impression on me, and I was sad to learn that Robilliard had died and passed into spirit in 1988 at the age of 36, as it seemed there was a lot of unfulfilled potential in his work. 

It was a pleasure then to visit the ICA for the first time in a long while and to see another retrospective of Robilliard's work, (the first for 20 years apparently). They still have an enduring appeal for me, and remind me of Andy Warhol's early illustrative, advertising line drawings which also have plenty of white space around them, and an economy of line. I feel that there is also something of the presence of Cocteau's work in there too. They also brought to mind the linear work of Ben Shahn. In fact there was a real spirit of that whole 1950/60s era and Beat Poetry about the pieces on display.

They are mostly personal and draw from Robilliard's life experiences at the time, (he was gay, and was good friends with the artist duo Gilbert and George and found many of the young men who modelled in their work).

The titles of the paintings are life affirming, (Life's not Good It's Excellent!) Bawdy - (Too Many Cocks Spoil The Breath), or hopeful, (Keep Tomorrow Free). I like the spontaneous feel of the typography, and its crude application, sometimes capitals, other times lowercase, and the way it dominates the images makes the work appear to be like advertising posters with slogans.

I really recommend this show, it was great to see Robilliard's work again. My only criticism is that the exhibition could have been bigger, I would have liked to see more work on display.

David Robilliard: The Yes No Quality of Dreams
until 15th June
Institute of Contemporary Art
The Mall