Robin Rhode, Car on Bricks, 2008. Wall drawing in black paint or charcoal and bricks, dimensions variable. Gift of Leah and Andrew Witkin, in honor of Nontsikelelo Biko. Courtesy the artist. @ Robin Rhode
Berlin-based artist Robin Rhode’s practice is multidisciplinary and spans photography, sculpture, installation, performance, and conceptual art. Rhode, whose formative years coincided with the postapartheid era in South Africa, has long been interested in the relationship between street and youth cultures and public art forms, particularly as an arena for cultivating individual and community agency. He is best known for serial photographic works or stop-motion animations that capture participants physically interacting with his colorful, geometric murals at various points in their illustrated formation. These works articulate the artist’s interest in the mingling of play and performance across perceived divisions of high and low art. “We use humor as a mode of survival,” explains Rhode, “and we use play as a means to destabilize various dominant structures.”
For decades, Rhode has explored ideas of play and popular culture in urban environments. Car on Bricks recalls one of the recurring forms in Rhode’s murals—everyday vehicles—through an instruction-based artwork that comprises a drawing of a car on a gallery wall with locally-sourced bricks standing in for the wheels, a tongue-in-cheek reference, perhaps, to structural immobility and arrested movement. Like other works in his signature style, Car on Bricks achieves its animating quality through the style of the drawing itself (the artist instructs broad strokes to mimic tire marks on asphalt, or a speeding car across a landscape), as well as an engagement with the wall. With its sense of narrative potential, this work invites viewers to engage imaginatively with the scene and the museum space.