Solo Shows

Tony Robbin: Art and the cosmos

Tony Robbin, 2017-3, 2017, oil on canvas, 56 x 70 inches

Contributed by Chunbum Park / Tony Robbin – a scientist and computer programmer as well as an artist – has spent decades pursuing fundamental questions of the cosmos and human existence. His visually enchanting work, currently on view in his solo exhibition “HyperSpace: Line, Color, Form, Pattern” at David Richard Gallery, appears non-representational. But if reality is not merely what is commonly observed at human scale but also what is observable at the quantum and cosmological levels, the distinction between representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational art can get murky.

Tony Robbin, WC 92-26, 1992, pen plotter on Arches watercolor, 28.5 x 39.5 inches
Tony Robbin, 2019-1, 2019, oil on canvas, 56 x 70 inches
Tony Robbin, 2020-1, 2020, oil on canvas, 2021, 56 x 70 inches

The product of his longstanding research into the mathematics of visualization, Robbin’s work consists of colored geometric forms depicting hypercubes – that is, notional geometric objects with more than three dimensions – often atop painterly washes and organic brushwork. In the 1970s, Robbin was part of the Pattern and Decoration movement, which emphasized the importance of patterns and decorative elements. He also crucially draws on Picasso and Cubism, noting in his book Shadows of Reality: The Fourth Dimension in Relativity, Cubism, and Modern Thought (Yale, 2006) that “Picasso used four-dimensional geometry to free himself from the tyranny of the surface, the skin, to show the psychological reality within.”

Tony Robbin, 2021–5, 2021, oil on canvas, 56 x 70 inches
Tony Robbin, WC 92–17.2, 1992–2020, pen plotter on Arches watercolor and oil, 28.5 x 39.5 inches
Tony Robbin, Fourfield, 1992, offset on paper and serigraph on mylar, 10 x 29.5 inches
Tony Robbin, 2020-2, 2020, oil on canvas, 56 x 70 inches

Robbin’s paintings can be understood as vivid and rigorous visual depictions of mathematical challenges, including that of representing multiple spaces in a single two-dimensional space that Einstein identified. They have philosophical and ideological implications. If, for instance, reality includes higher dimensions, there may be “protean” entities that continuously migrate between higher and lower dimensions, spontaneously visible and invisible. This suggests that reality is fundamentally abstract and mysterious, and that the perception of the world as a traditional Euclidean space is limiting and perhaps, in some ways, dehumanizing.

Tony Robbin: HyperSpace: Line, Color, Form, Pattern,” David Richard Gallery, 526 W. 26th, Suite 311, Street, New York, NY. Through June 23, 2023.

About the author: Chunbum Park completed their master’s thesis at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where they explored the topics of the anti-racist aesthetics and gender fluidity. Park has recently exhibited at the SVA Chelsea Gallery and in an online exhibit organized by SHIM. Park is the founder of the Emerging Artists Collective, an online community for artists.

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