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Catch Air
Robin Rhode
Artwork 2003
Artwork: Robin Rhode, Catch Air (2003). C-prints. 26.4 x 34.3 cm each. Courtesy of Stevenson.
Artist Robin Rhode Title Catch Air Date 2003 Materials C-prints Dimensions 26.4 x 34.3 cm each Edition Edition of 5 Credit Courtesy of Stevenson

A playfulness colours Rhode's propositions, as too does an improvisational sense of 'making do' with the materials at hand. “We use humour as a mode of survival,” Rhode says of South African youth culture, which informs his work's street-wise sensibility. “We use play as a means to destabilise various dominant structures.” In Catch Air, the movement of a skateboarder – 'riding' a drawn line rather than a half pipe – is recalled in twelve sequential images.

In all Robin Rhode’s work, line is primary – as formal device, as progression, as narrative structure. With the simplest propositions, he gives expression to imagined scenes. His work more often persists as document, the original offering only transitory. In charcoal, chalk and paint, Rhode creates sites of engagement within the city. The sidewalk becomes stage; an actor, always anonymous, appears. A series of photographs are taken, a stop-frame animation is made. Performance, drawing, photograph – the resulting works are all these mediums distilled to image, be it static or moving. The scene is later painted over; the actor departs; the set returns to inner-city wall. Largely produced in Rhode’s native Johannesburg, the works’ political implications are apparent, touching on such issues as urban poverty and violence, street culture and its aspirations. Rhode, however, considers himself more a formalist than social messenger, an artist concerned with mimesis – with art’s illusion – and the many tensions between image and object; the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, represented and real. This is particularly true of his more recent work, which pairs both colour theory and geometry with the performing body.