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b. 1976, South Africa

Robin Rhode Biography

Using materials such as chalk, charcoal, paint, and even soap, Robin Rhode captures complex social conditions in urban murals that he documents through photography and stop-motion animation.

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Growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, Robin Rhode was inspired by the youth culture of hip-hop and sports, as well as the narrative quality of mural paintings around him. He began making performative drawings on walls in public spaces in 1997, when he was a student at Technikon Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In 1998, Rhode began using photography to document his murals; their serial quality reminiscent of early motion photography by pioneers such as Eadweard Muybridge.

Rhode’s narrative murals frequently comment on widespread stereotypes about the young black male through images such as a thief trying to break into a car in Car Theft (1998) or a talented athlete in Street Gym—originally created as a performance in 2000 before being mounted as a digital animation in 2004. By contrast, works such as the stop-motion animation Empty Pockets (2008) depicts a humorous narrative in which people play billiards on a drawing of a pool table, while flowers magically climb up buildings in the city of Jericho in Tree of Life (2019).

In 2015, Robin Rhode combined his propensity for storytelling and performance in Erwartung, which was commissioned for the Performa 15 biennial. The work is a reinterpretation of the eponymous one-act monodrama by the Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg, which tells the story of a woman who looks for her lover in the dark forest. In his interview with Ocula Magazine in 2015, Rhode said that he ‘began to see parallels between the protagonist in Erwartung and the South African women who have also lamented the loss of their men to migration for work, or to political exile, or taken by police into questioning during the struggle of apartheid.’ The powerful performance was staged in collaboration with the conductor Arturo Tamayo and soprano singer Carol Sidney Louis.

Selected exhibitions include Robin Rhode & Nari Ward: Power Wall at Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong (2020); Under the Sun, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2017); The Moon is Asleep, SCAD Museum of Art, Georgia (2016); and The Call of Walls, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2013). Robin Rhode: Memory is the Weapon, a survey exhibition of Robin Rhode’s work to date, was held at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2019), and Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2020).

Robin Rhode is based in Berlin.

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020

Exhibition view: Robin Rhode & Nari Ward, Power Wall, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong (3 April–18 June 2020). Courtesy the artists and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Photo: Owen Wong. 

Robin Rhode Featured Artworks

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Keyhole by Robin Rhode contemporary artwork
Robin RhodeKeyhole, 2017Photo paper on lightweight board
180 x 125 x 2 cm
Stevenson Enquire about this work
S by Robin Rhode contemporary artwork
Robin RhodeS, 2014C-print
125 x 190 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Four Plays by Robin Rhode contemporary artwork
Robin RhodeFour Plays, 2012–2013Black and white inkjet print
182 x 262 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
The Point of Vanishing by Robin Rhode contemporary artwork
Robin RhodeThe Point of Vanishing, 2012–2013Mounted c-prints
132.8 x 324 x 3.8 cm
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
Soul’s Nest by Robin Rhode contemporary artwork
Robin RhodeSoul’s Nest, 2016C-print
58.27 x 89.76 inches (incl frame)
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work
David by Robin Rhode contemporary artwork
Robin RhodeDavid, 2017C-print
73.15 x 89.69 inches (incl frame)
Lehmann Maupin Enquire about this work

Robin Rhode Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Robin Rhode & Nari Ward, Power Wall at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
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3 April–18 June 2020 Robin Rhode & Nari Ward Power Wall Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Gridology at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Closed
12 July–24 August 2018 Group Exhibition Gridology Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Robin Rhode, The Geometry of Colour at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
18 January–10 March 2018 Robin Rhode The Geometry of Colour Lehmann Maupin, 536 West 22nd Street, New York

Robin Rhode Represented By

Robin Rhode In Ocula Magazine

Exhibitions to See in Hong Kong Ocula Report Exhibitions to See in Hong Kong By Tessa Moldan, Hong Kong

As Hong Kong gradually opens up after months of lockdown, this lowdown provides a selection of exhibitions taking place throughout the summer.

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Robin Rhode Ocula Conversation Robin Rhode By Diana d'Arenberg, Berlin

I always want to create situations that are groundbreaking and cutting edge and a little bit risky. This is what contemporary artists have to do, take risks and push boundaries.

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Hong Kong Autumn Exhibitions 2014: Walls, Landscapes And Dames Ocula Report Hong Kong Autumn Exhibitions 2014: Walls, Landscapes And Dames By Diana d'Arenberg, Hong Kong

Hong Kong seems to be growing out of its love affair with big brand artists, some of which have had about as much appeal as a vagazzler—overexposed, brash, bling. Gone are the dot paintings and Swarovski skulls, and Maos, as the city transitions to a deeper engagement with more challenging and engaging art.

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Rachel Lehmann Ocula Conversation Rachel Lehmann By Anna Dickie, Hong Kong

Rachel Lehmann is not only one half of the gallery powerhouse that is Lehmann Maupin, but she is also an international citizen of the world. Lehmann was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, and studied at the University of Fribourg in France. She worked at the legendary Sonnabend Gallery in New York, and was the proprietor of two contemporary galleries in...

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Robin Rhode In Related Press

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Contemporary Art of Africa Shines at Armory Week 2016 Related Press Contemporary Art of Africa Shines at Armory Week 2016 5 March 2016, MutualArt

This spring, Africa arrives in New York. The city will be treated to an unprecedented opportunity to observe and experience a wide range of contemporary art from Africa and the Diaspora, sparked by the Armory Show’s focus on the region. Satellite fairs, performances, pop-up shows, museum and gallery exhibitions featuring contemporary African...

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A classic operatic work, performed in Times Square Related Press A classic operatic work, performed in Times Square 13 November 2015, The New York Times

For the Performa 15 biennale, the South African artist Robin Rhode has chosen a demanding venue to stage a performance: in the thick of Times Square. This Saturday and Sunday, Rhode will reinterpret the Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg’s operatic monodrama Erwartung  in the middle of the bustling tourist hub — a project that...

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Art Interview: Robin Rhode Related Press Art Interview: Robin Rhode 18 August 2015, BOMB Magazine

Cape Town-born and Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Robin Rhode works across visual media to interrogate notions of the city and urban landscapes, the individual, and the cultural collective. Rhode was recently announced as a commissioned artist for Performa 15, the biennial of performance art, taking place in New York November 1–22...

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Review: ‘Drawing Waves’ and ‘Borne Frieze,’ a Robin Rhode Twofer Related Press Review: ‘Drawing Waves’ and ‘Borne Frieze,’ a Robin Rhode Twofer 10 August 2015, The New York Times

For the South African artist Robin Rhode, drawing is never enough. He draws on gallery walls, then throws his body against the images he’s made, or drags his hands through the fresh chalk or charcoal. He draws in public places, in choreographed acts or in improvised, highly physical exertions. Drawing is not a stand-alone artistic medium; it...

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