Robin Rhode has established his unique practice with a multifold approach, working across media, including drawing, performance, photography, video, and music. As a young artist inspired by the rebellion and possibility of graffiti, he was first drawn to working in public, unsanctioned spaces. Since then, his practice has evolved to become more closely aligned with and influenced by the minimal wall drawings of Sol Lewitt, and the 1970s performance work of artists such as Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman, as well as earlier art historical references such as Eadweard Muybridge’s stop-motion photography.
In The Geometry of Colour, Robin Rhode utilizes geometric articulation of space, together with color theory—another optical science—to visualize the complexities of human nature and the political and economic systems established in its image. Under the Sun (2017) was inspired by the artist’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories last year while he was preparing for his current exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Struck by the similarity of today’s treatment of Palestinians to the divisive history of South Africa, Rhode was inspired to produce images of the sun’s rays as metaphor for both the political and atmospheric climates that the regions share. In a nod to religious architecture and spiritual associations with the sun, Robin Rhode treats the squares of color representing gradients of sunlight as stained glass or a mosaic across 36 photographs. A doppelgänger of the artist alternates between basking in and shielding himself from the light depicted in the shifting spectrum. Rhode’s sun rays are an additional contribution to the long representational history of the sun, both as a benevolent father figure, and a symbol of victory and might, found throughout monotheistic religions. The rays also revisit the theme of light as a sociopolitical issue—the expansion of the electrical grid to serve black townships was an early achievement of the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela—that he has addressed in previous works.