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Studio Magazine

Studio Visit: Andy Robert

SaVonne Anderson

As Andy Robert finishes his residency and prepares for the culminating exhibition We Go as They at the Studio Museum, he reflects on how this experience will continue to shape his practice. “I've come to realize Harlem has been with me all my life and it's the soul I’ll carry wherever I go.” Born in Les Cayes, Haiti and based in Los Angeles for over seven years, Robert has spent the last year in Harlem drawing inspiration from what he calls “the Black metropolis.” “Being here is like an event. Every day that you’re outside you are going to encounter something. While it is home and Mecca and culture and music, it is also a history of neglect, ruin, ghetto, and isolation.”

Although he is primarily a painter, much of Robert’s work is based on photographs he takes of the people and places he sees in Harlem every day: “Current events shape the way I look at the world in my paintings. There are beautiful moments that happen, moments that I find enduring where people are holding hands or embracing. But there are moments of tragedy, too.” In his paintings, Robert aims to strike a balance between tragedy and beauty, and to represent what is always there: hope.

During his time at the Museum, Robert has created a series of nocturne paintings that embody this hope. “I’ve been making works that have a certain type of light, which embody the kind of thought and reflection that happens at the end of the day.” Full of deep, warm blue and shimmering, cool tones, these abstractions of Harlem at night contemplate the unknown of what is to come, of tomorrow, and hold the potential for romance, hope and love. Robert calls these moments in his paintings the “closing hours," the time of night that anticipates daybreak. “I like it when things fall into play, when my closing gestures and thinking become more about composition and balance or even throwing things off, when I'm making decisions and editing in search of possibility, rather than trying to build anew. That's when I know the painting is resolved.”

See Andy Robert’s work on view in We Go as They: Artists in Residence 2016–17 from September 14, 2017 to January 7, 2018.

—SaVonne Anderson

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