EVAN ROBARTS at Berthold Pott / Cologne

EVAN ROBARTS / ‘A bright cold day in April’
26 April – 27 May 2017
Berthold Pott
An der Schanz 1a – 50735 Cologne 

All Images: Courtesy Berthold Pott
Gallery, Cologne, 2017.
photo by Mareike Tocha

Fake news. Alternative
facts. A strange new discourse has begun to infiltrate contemporary America
with the arrival of the Donald J. Trump administration. In January, as
President Trump ascended to power, George Orwell’s seminal dystopian novel 1984 climbed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list in an
eerie foreshadowing of events. As readers opened their prim copies, the first
lines seemed to herald an era of the New Normal: “It was a bright cold day in
April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Keeping pulse of these
developments from his studio in New York City, Evan Robarts draws a visual
language that informs his latest body of work—his most political to date. For
his first solo show at Berthold Pott, he composed works that mine architectural
details from New York and Cologne, as well as the worlds of labor politics, the
media and the stifling, conservative values wedded to society and America
In the work Newspeak (2017), Robarts scavenged an
Epoch Times—known for its uncensored reporting on China—newspaper rack from the
streets of New York. In an act of “editing,” he pulled apart the grimy, caged
structure, articulating its skeletal frame into an aviary form, in a commentary
on free speech suppression and political indoctrination. In this way, he
literally untangles the current state of reporting under threat, as well  as obliquely referencing the wingspan of a
bald eagle, free in flight across the unobstructed skies of America.
In a continuation of
his studies subverting function, Robarts presents scaffolding structures
sourced from Cologne that questions traditional painting and wall pieces. As
markers of production and labor systems, as well as almost-invisible footnotes
to the narratives of cityscapes and pedestrian journeys, the scaffolding plays
a vital role in the context of a commercial gallery space. Territories of wall
are marked with raw, bold pigments in a style reminiscent of Color Field
paintings, demarcated by the steel bars that at once incarcerate and expose
space. In this aggressive context, the viewers are confronted with consumerist
hierarchies and labor exploitation. Robarts even stipulates that upon purchase,
collectors must complete the work by painting the color swatches themselves, in
a radical, politicized act of class reversal: the buyer becomes the hired hand.
Finally, two paintings
act as a discursive treatise to the cycles of expression and erasure. These new
works are from Robarts’ ongoing mop paintings, in which he utilizes materials
and gestures he encountered while working as a superintendent in New York’s
tenant buildings. Mimicking janitorial work, he drags white plaster with a mop
onto VCT tiles; with floor scrapers, he removes specific marks. In this
quotidian process of addition and subtraction, Robarts manipulates—sometimes
violently—the layers of plaster and its relationship to the surface, mirroring
the stories that are shaped never by those they belong to, but by authorities
of power, stakeholders and politicians.
Evan Robarts is a New
based artist. He has previously held solo shows at The Hole, New
York, USA; Bryce Wolkowitz, New York, USA; and Galerie Jeanrochdard, Brussels,
Belgium. Recent group exhibitions include “Daily Formalism”, curated by MAB
Society,at Bank Gallery, Shanghai, China; “Not Really Really”, curated by
Frédéric de Goldschmidt and Agata Jastrząbek, at Quai du Commerce 7, Brussels,
Belgium; “Today/Morrow”, curated by Romain Dauriac, at Balice Hertling, New
York, USA; “Wayfarers”, at Berman Museum, Ursinus College, Collegeville, USA;
“Brand New Second Hand”, at Vigo Gallery, London, England; “11/16/13”, curated
by Violet Dennison at Violets Café, New York, USA; “Homebody”, curated by Louis
Eisner and Alex Perweiler, at The Still House Group, New York, USA; and at the
Martin Margulies Collection in Miami, USA.
Ysabelle Cheung