Post-apocalyptic aesthetic: Q&A with Matthew William Robinson

JOE BUN KEO:  In your work, complexes and structures break down and deconstruct. You speak of the post-industrial, instability and man’s imposition on the natural landscape with high-rises, beams, and girders. Mixed media and collage seems like a natural way to present these images. With that said there is an uncertainty, skepticism, an implied challenge against refined structure within your work. What is your stance on revolution?

MATTHEW WILLIAM ROBINSON: A revolution as in reform. I don’t have the personality to go yell my ideas into peoples faces to change things. I believe that democracy can work and rather than fight the system, I like the idea of creating solutions. Yes, student loans are a burden. Loans are sold to students by people who do not understand what they are…. That is wrong… manipulative.  But I was trusting and uninformed. I would vote accordingly and educate as a way to stop students from taking large loans. This drop in loans being signed off on would change the demand for the loan. Thus we would affect the banks in a great way. I am a teacher….I believe we can change by creating awareness.

Matthew William Robinson, Untitled, 2011, mixed media, 30 x 30 inches.

JBK: You don’t render crisp, rigid, clear depiction of hotel buildings or double-ranches with two-door garages. You shatter architecture, shuffle its posts of stability, and displace it. By decontextualizing,  you create discomfort. A home, a shelter, walls and frames give order and organization to society. What are your thoughts of the idea of composing

MWR: I build images from images, images of structures from images of structures. They look shattered and broken, but are being mended from the broken to form a whole again. I use images of my surroundings, notes, samples to recreate. The post-apocalyptic aesthetic comes about through re-purposing material and imagery. Using collage for shapes with former functionality ignored leads to a familiar, but nonsensical picture.

Matthew William Robinson, Untitled, 2011, mixed media, 48 x 48 inches.

JBK:  Your color palette doesn’t include bright neon or soft pastel colors that carry candy-coated sugar high happiness. There are dark browns, grays, black, and dirty ochres. These colors emit a feeling of something ominous. There’s a sense of danger and caution. What’s your reaction to describing the work as being messengers from the future warning the present of a future collapse?

MWR: The photos provide the color pallete. The colors exist in our current urban environments. None of that information is fiction. The photos I choose are of plasters, steel, brick, stone, which all have a neutral pallet. I personally value solid materials, strong materials that last. I like the roughness of a barn board and the honesty of oxidation on metal. Oxidation is evidence. It provides more information about what type of metal at a glance. Colors that come from the natural world are more honest to me, less distracting.

Matthew William Robinson, Untitled (15), 2011, mixed media, 48 x 48 inches.

JBK:  Collage and mixed media is so vague, please tell us where do you clip and take your images from?

MWR: I live in Brooklyn. I photograph my surroundings as I did while living in New Britain, CT. If you look at one painting for a few hours you will find evidence of the place, though it is integrated and hidden. All photographs on the large paintings are objects in my room, historical objects, out of their original context and into a new.

Matthew William Robinson, Untitled (667), 2011, mixed media, 48 x 48 inches.

JBK:  What’s next for you? Any shows, any projects, fill us in!

MWR: Currently I am working on a series of smaller works. They are either collage from LIFE magazine on cardboard in used �art�frames or all drawing of architectural interiors which are abstracted and taken from different places at different angles. I had been doing resin paintings with objects found on the street using the same style that I would making paintings with collage.

I recently was in a show at The Gowanus Ballroom in Brooklyn. Featuring:
Kiki Smith, Tom Otterness, Swoon, Duke Riley, Miru Kim, Dustin Yellin, Ray Smith,
The Bruce High Quality Foundation and about 20 more.

I have a few events that may happen this winter, one in Atlanta, but you never know what’s next. Personally I was looking for some shows upstate and hope to be working with the town of Kingston on curating some art shows in the old factory buildings. I am looking for some help to get this rolling and we want to set a deadline.

Matthew William Robinson, Untitled (220), 2011, mixed media, 48 x 48 inches.

Matthew William Robinson, Untitled (13), 2011, mixed media, 48 x 48 inches. All images courtesy of the artist.

Image at top of post:  Matthew William Robinson, Untitled, 2011, mixed media, 48 x 48 inches.

Related posts:
Wendy White’s new work
The utopian promise of Modernism at the Aldrich Museum (2008)


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  1. Matt,
    Great to run across your paintings online pursuing the post-apocalyptic aesthetic!
    My book on Jackson Pollock is coming out this month- in German, check out http://www.art.ccsu.edu/langhorne/.
    If you know anyone who is interested in a fresh take on Pollock and who also knows German, tell them about Kunst als Sinnsuche!
    Best wishes,
    Elizabeth Langhorne

  2. Great, I will check it out! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Student loans are definitely painful. If you are a student and you need money that your parents can not provide, they should explain further what it means and why you need it in the first place.

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