EVAN ROBARTS' CHEERY CONSTRUCTIONS
Evan Robarts’ work is ostensibly born of a kindred sensibility to Arte Povera, the earthy Italian anti-modernism movement that flourished in the Sixties, and which employed such down-at-the-heel materials as wax, broken glass, soil, and wood as its vernacular. But you’d be forgiven if your first impression of the young artist’s work was one of jouissance and love of the line. In “Run of the Mill,” his current solo show at The Hole, Robarts employs materials familiar from the stolid realms of industry and construction to more light-hearted ends, weaving rubber hoses through panes of glass to create distilled squiggles that evoke the neon compositions of Keith Sonnier; their winsome arcs and dips make you wish they were aglow in pastel shades, although the gallery’s press materials are quick to emphasize their gritty point of origin: Robarts worked maintenance in East New York, spending long hours fumbling with the innards of unloved buildings.
You can focus on the workaday components of Robarts’ art, or you can take a step back and simply enjoy their confident, kooky balance and compositional sophistication. Fine, there’s a message in here somewhere about punching the clock and blue-collar toil, but there’s also some nice, breezy compositions that are teased out of uncomely materials but have the spontaneous, calligraphic feel of a quick contour drawing.
Elsewhere, the artist’s pleasant “mop paintings” evoke both the stately wends of ancient riverbeds and the meticulous linework of a LeWitt wall drawing. You’ll enjoy the pieces more if you can set aside their custodial inspiration and enjoy the density of their exuberant curves. Robarts also employs scaffolding, that ubiquitous patchwork of painted and patinaed metal that New Yorkers spend their days ducking in and out of, to nice effect. The artist dissects the structure into its less dynamic two-dimensional components, then isolates it against The Hole’s extra-white walls, and expressively fills its cells with a patchwork of tasteful hues. It feels like one part Die Stijl and two parts your morning commute, but in a good way.
Robarts, who graduated from Pratt in 2008, has shown with Brooklyn’s The Still House Group, one of the city’s most interesting and vibrant collectives of young artists, who all tend to fetishize prosaic and unconventional materials. The insouciant elegance of “Run of the Mill” is a testament to his ability to stand on his own.
“Run of the Mill” runs through Sunday at The Hole, 312 Bowery, New York. All images courtesy of the artist and The Hole, New York.
Kevin Greenberg is the art editor of The Last Magazine. He is also a practicing architect and the principal of Space Exploration, an integrated architecture and interior design firm located in New York. In addition to his work for The Last Magazine, Kevin is an editor of PIN-UP, a semi-annual “magazine for architectural entertainment.”