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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dario Robleto at NOMA

There are some obvious reasons why I like Robleto's work, but it's not all bones. His exhibit Prelives of the Blues has a wide range of displays, but the core of what he is doing is always manifested in the words that describe how these final projects came to be. I find that a bit fascinating that as an artist, part of the art lies in the telling. For instance, the making of the bone sculptures below. Not in the why, but in the how: so a very specific kind of telling.

I'm also intrigued by the title of the show: "Prelives." What is a prelife and how do these objects created after the fact inhabit the space of "pre." In a way, it's as though Robleto moves through time as a seer and is assuring us that in fact he can pull the template from the final: the end song. So that his works pre-date what we know temporally as the "blues" or more specifically what ends in song and rhythm. I think too, being shown in New Orleans, the show is confronting a historical attachment to the blues and its place in this region with a completely new approach to what we think of when we think 'blues.'  Robleto is attempting to tread in that space that comes from-- but in a more spiritual sense dwells before-- in the heart of what makes the magic of the blues resonate so deeply. Why else would one do these incredible complicated structures. Why would one play Muddy Waters to seashells for 48 hours, if not for the fact that it allows one to sit in the space of construction. The patient, meditative space that allows the subtext of sound and experience to begin to dictate a new way of seeing. Robleto is a poet in that sense, traveling in obscure lands and returning with a translated language that he then builds for us to also walk those paths. Here the language is of bone:

I like too that these two pieces are companion pieces, but this is the first time that they have been shown together. The hands are under glass while the pelvis is exposed (albeit protected by alarm if you get too close). I like to imagine them in conversation deep in the night held in the belly of the park and it's slumber music.

As we should, since the pieces desire our continued involvement in the drama of their post-blues lives. For instance, what of these seashells paired and then separated after being exposed to 48 hours of music by particular musicians? Aren't they being forced to hold the echo, to engage in a call and response that is at the heart of the blues, to be both in a state of longing and yet imbued with the particular mode of release from that sorrow. Aren't we all inhabited by loss that is shaped by the music that makes up our particular formations? Music in that sense is the medium excised from time, able to contain the past when we hear it and also in the initial hearing able to project a future-- in one sense, pre-lived in its very conception.

More information about Robleto and his exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art:

Video by Doug Maccash of Robleto discussing his bone sculptures: 

June 1st: Lecture by Dario Robleto at NOMA

NOMA's press release for the exhibit: The Prelives of the Blues

Exhibition highlights:

Inspired by Robleto’s autobiography, Sin was in Our Hips, 2001-2001, consists of male and female pelvic
bones made of bone dust that was ground together with melted vinyl from his mother and father’s Rock ‘n’ Roll record collection. The piece refers to the importance of Rock music to his parents’ generation, and music’s role in his own conception.

The series, Melancholy Matters Because of You, 2010, was conceived as a “B-Side” companion to the piece Sin Was in Our Hips, and the works will be exhibited together for the first time. Melancholy explores the transference of music across generations and is comprised of bone dust combined with melted vinyl and shellac records, and shaped into fetal hand bones (using his grandmother’s 78 rpm vinyl records), adolescent hand bones (made from his mother’s 45 rpm vinyl records), and adult hand bones (made from artist’s 33 rpm vinyl records).

The Sun Makes Him Sing Again (Brown), 2012, is a new piece inspired by funk singer James Brown. For the past two years, Robleto has been making cyanotypes focusing on the creative process of songwriters. In these pieces, he exposes original handwritten lyrics by deceased pop stars, using sunlight to illuminate the songwriters’ words. In this new piece, Robleto creates a cyanotype using original notes written by James Brown. The Sun resurrects Brown’s moment of inspiration, when he inscribed his lyrics onto the page.

Survival Does Not Lie In The Heavens, 2012, is a new work inspired by New Orleans. Part of one of Robleto’s most recent bodies of work, this constellation of stars is comprised of the stage lights from various record album covers. Focusing on the lights that once illuminated musicians in the midst of their performances, the piece pays homage to moments of musical creation. In this new work, Robleto draws from albums that relate to the rich history of New Orleans music.

About Dario Robleto

Robleto, a native of San Antonio, Texas, has become internationally known for his use of unusual materials, instilled with conceptual significance. The subjects and materials he uses express his interest in history, music, and universal human desires. Past works have included dinosaur bones, wartime memorabilia such as bullets, letters, hair wreaths, and carefully chosen melted vinyl records and audiotapes.
His work has been the focus of numerous of solo exhibitions, most recently at Des Moines Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, the Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego and the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston. His pieces are in museum collections across the United States, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

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