Happy as a Lark | Kates-Ferri Projects, NY, NY

Focusing on three series in the artist’s oeuvre, the show revolves around replicas of models in Ebony magazines from the 1950s to 1980s. Illustrating the optimum standards of existence for Black people in those post-war decades, the artist laughs at the absurdity of these visions of an ideal life that pushed Black people to live by Western expectations that were never intended for nonwhite people. At the same time, Robinson is dazzled by the way the models executed their looks, their apparent ease and confidence. Their elegance mirrors the people she looks up to. Her paintings question the logic and the thinking of the time and highlight the opacity of that reasoning.
While the subject matter of Black models is from the same source, Robinson uses a different painting support for each series that is familiar to viewers—wood panels, silks, and canvases. For her wood panels, Robinson recreates the model’s likeness from the magazine by applying an over-abundant amount of acrylic onto plastic. Working quickly, she presses the plastic onto the panel, lifting it from the surface to provide the transferred image. The technique makes the final result imprecise, imprinting distorted faces and small streaks left on the paint surface. For both the silks and canvases, the artist wets both fabric materials to produce an absorbent surface for the colorful inks to diffuse. Introducing chance to an otherwise predictable feature–the face, Robinson leaves her paints to dry independent from her control. This gesture intentionally leads to the visual opacity and illegibility of these faces. 

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©Dana Robinson | Brooklyn, NY