22.03.2019 – 12.05.2019
This exhibit is dedicated to Beth Ann Cullom, 1971-2017
When Robert Hardgrave and I talk about his work, the metaphor of skateboarding often comes up. Robert agrees with the statement that he approaches his art like that of a skateboarder, a sport he was heavily into during his teens and twenties living in Southern Arizona. Starting a new work of art for Robert is like dropping into a half-pipe, hurtling himself into new spaces, which become more known and refined as the practice continues. The hard spaces of his work, the way they hang, or bolt together, overlap, implying interiors and pathways, makes a case for a self-found, and personal kind of formalism. His respect for and knowledge of other artists grounds his work certainly – modern painting and photography are woven throughout.
But equally important is Robert’s confident improvisation. Whether he’s drawing meticulous patterns with sumi inks on small Japanese papers, or covering a wall with a monumental toner transfer, Robert calls on hours and hours of regular practice – with his own ideas, iconographies, color rhythm, patterns, and snapshots of the art historic world and fellow painters. Robert’s works are worked over a lot. The discoveries are additive, and over years, have become an aggregate of a daily commitment to his art. In this way Robert’s work, I would argue, is personal. His drawings and paintings don’t hide any of the process. The materials tell a story; the mark- making refers to itself in reworked ways, but over time. The threads of his creativity are not hidden away, in an age when showing your soft spot seems gauche or a least naïve, and critical climate is agog with notions of atemporal art. The simple truth is that in Robert’s work, we get to see and know Robert. There’s no scrim of protection, but rather an invitation in.
Confronted by art full of exciting marks, color, scale, and materials, Robert’s art is an invitation to move closer to our own creativity. His work shortens the distance between art and audience. It quickens our hearts, just as we feel as we watch a confident skateboarder bend and fly across a pipe railing, and imagine ourselves sailing through the air toward the hot pavement.
Beth Cullom, 2015