Jimmy Robert Vis-à-vis is the first major solo museum exhibition in the United States of work by Brussels-based artist Jimmy Robert. Born in Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France, Robert was raised and educated in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s—an era in which questions of citizenship and representation were hotly contested. Rather than creating conspicuously political artworks, Robert takes his cues from cultural figures of the recent past—avant-garde writers, filmmakers, visual artists—who were not only pioneers in their respective art forms but also deft at subtly registering the traumas and effects of their social conditions. Robert’s concern for the body—both personal and political—in addition to his interest in the poetic potential of ephemeral materials unites much of his work, which ranges in media from photography, film, and video to sculpture and collaborative performance.
Robert typically uses photographic portraitureas a starting point for his works on paper, gently breaking down divisions between two and three dimensions, image and object. In some cases Robert uses found photographs that he tears, collages, tapes, and crumples before digitally scanning them and pinning them to the wall. In other cases, Robert takes new photographs in his studio and crams them into wooden boxes or arranges them on the gallery floor. Extending into the space of the gallery, these works create a relationship to the viewer’s body while underscoring a sense of impermanence. Likewise, Robert’s sculptures are either made from wood-based materials or give the illusion of paper forms and often play with notions of value and durability.
Robert’s films and videos convey a sense of the ordinary in their scale, subject, and material. Broadly inspired by the French New Wave, the artist is also deeply influenced by feminist filmmakers such as Marguerite Duras and Chantal Akerman. Of a similarly intimate register, Robert’s dance and performance works value gesture and chance over elaborate choreography, referring to Fluxus and the Judson Dance Theater.
To create one of the works in this exhibition, Robert performs with performer, choreographer Maria Hassabi live in the galleries.
The exhibition is organized by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
To hear from the curator and the artist about the work in the exhibition, access the audio tour on the MCA’s channel.