Robin Rhode (b. 1976, Cape Town, South Africa; lives and works in Berlin) engages photography, performance, drawing, and sculpture in creating visual narratives that are brought to life using quotidian materials such as soap, charcoal, chalk, and paint. Rhode came of age in the newly post-apartheid South Africa, and was exposed to new forms of creative expression motivated by the spirit of the individual rather than dictated by a political or social agenda. The growing influence of hip-hop, film, and popular sports on youth culture as well as the community’s reliance on storytelling in the form of colorful murals encouraged the development of Rhode’s hybrid street-based aesthetic. Rhode is best known for his photographic series that documents a sole protagonist interacting with murals the artist painted on public walls in Johannesburg and Berlin. In the succession of photographs, the movements of the actor appear to alter the two-dimensional renderings, compressing space and time and transforming the urban landscape into a fictional storyboard. Melding individual expressionism with broader socioeconomic concerns, Rhode’s work reveals a mastery of illusion, a rich range of historical and contemporary references, and an innate skill for blending high and low art forms.
Rhode studied at the University of Johannesburg as well as at the Association of Film and Dramatic Arts (AFDA), from 1996 to 2001. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized by Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland (2018-2019); Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2017); Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, GA (2016); The Drawing Center, New York (2015); Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY (2014); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2013); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2010); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2009); Hayward Gallery, London (2008); and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2007). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Synthesize: Art + Music, Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, FL (2017); Shifting Views: People and Politics in Contemporary African Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, MD (2016-2017); Making Africa. A Continent of Contemporary Design, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany, traveled to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (2015); DRAWING NOW. Albertina, Vienna, Austria (2015), GOLD, Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2014); Staging Action: Performance in Photography Since 1960, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011); and New Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2005). Rhode has participated in multiple biennials/triennials, including the Busan Biennale (2017), the 56th Venice Biennale (2015); PERFORMA 15, Arnold Schönberg’s Erwartung - A Performance by Robin Rhode, New York (2015), the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012); Yokohama Triennial, Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan (2005) and the 51st Venice Biennale (2005). His work is included in numerous public collections, including the Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Miami Art Museum, Florida; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Rhode has received numerous awards, including the 2018 Zurich Art Prize, Zurich, Switzerland; the Young Artist Award 2011, A.T. Kearney, Germany; the 2007 Illy Prize, Art Brussels, Belgium, and ars viva 05/06 Identität/Identity Award, Berlin.