Joan Robey: Sculpture
from Joan Robey: “Poetry of the Worn”, by Lynn LaBate ©2010
A mid-career artist, Joan Robey has re-invented herself through her art. Robey grew up in New York and earned a BFA in English from the University of Florida. She spent a number of years in the Bay Area studying and teaching woodworking. In the early 80s she relocated to Denver where she opened the Joan Robey Gallery. After settling in Santa Monica in the early 90s, she started creating assemblage and sculpture from salvaged materials. Her work has been shown in galleries across the nation and collected by institutions including the Peter Norton Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art, Miami, and can be seen in the movie “Batman and Robin” and in numerous collections.
Robey’s artistic roots can be found in the California assemblage movement of the early 1960s, in particular, the poetic lyricism of George Herms. Drawn to the aged materiality of the found object Robey’s constructions employ the junk aesthetic of the early assemblage artists along with formal sculptural techniques, where a kinship is present with the works of Anthony Caro, Martin Puryear, and Catherine Burgess. Robey’s work falls into two categories; the first having a greater linear/painterly quality, poetic in nature and the second is more volumetric, depicting implied danger or chaos isolated in time and space.
Duality, the cornerstone of the conceptual framework of Joan Robey’s sculpture, is reinforced by the interplay between the positive and negative. Using salvaged materials such as discarded wood or metal, Robey’s constructions have the ability to evoke insight, awe, and humor. However, rather than narrative, this artist prefers dialogue. Even in the very act of finding and choosing materials, the form, condition, or surface of an object will “speak” to her. In turn, the resulting evocative works of art she creates ask questions rather than make statements. As metaphors for psychological situations, the use of discarded materials in her work suggests transformation, salvation, and transcendence.
Seeing an object in a new way, removed from its original context, awakens the aesthetic eye. There can be an implicit sadness to discarded objects followed by the positive potential of their re-use. Duality is at the core of my work.
- negative space
Forces impact elements. The results contain themes of movement/repose, tension/equilibrium, attraction/repulsion, chaos/balance. Complex relationships emerge from simple juxtapositions.
By projecting human predicaments onto inanimate objects, I can begin to objectify the human experience. In this way, the irony of our circumstances becomes apparent. The overlay of the human spirit adds humor.
There is a dynamic of vulnerability and aggression in man and the things he creates, just as there is in the forces of nature. My hope is that the viewer feels a sense of danger in viewing my pieces, as if coming upon an act of chaos in midstream.
– Joan Robey
Artist Influences: Constructivists + Kandinsky + Malevich + Noguchi + Puryear + Andre + Benton + Serra