On view at Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
February 4 - March 25, 2022
How often do we remember the importance of skin? As the largest organ of the body, it is our primary layer of contact with the natural and manmade world. The skin is a technology of protection - as much from heat and rain as from hate and racism. Endowed with symbolic significance, the skin is the material and metaphysical landscape through which we come to understand society’s deepest challenges and greatest possibilities. In A Suh Wi Dweet, Stuart Robertson represents Black life through dynamic epidermal surfaces to question and inform how we think about skin, our most intimate surface.
Robertson renders his subjects through a medley of lustrous materials, including metal, domestic debris, and textiles. The conglomerated paintings shine like bling, articulating material strength and resilience, alchemically turning discarded debris into spectacular portraits. They channel the desire of the gaze while dispersing its effects across the surface of abstracted metallic figures. In this way, the exhibition responds to the ambivalence of representation and the allure of being seen.
A Suh Wi Dweet depicts both Robertson’s biological and chosen family from a place of protection and care. Viewers may recognize the people captured in several of the portraits, as Robertson seeks to thank and to celebrate Black folks in Charlottesville who warmly welcomed him into their community. At the same time, recognizing them may be a challenge because Robertson depicts his metal-clad subjects only partially, framing not their face, but their hands, mouths, and other parts of their bodies. In so doing, he invites us to ask questions about the mundane, and extraordinary, inner lives of Black people.
- Luke Williams