Robert Thiele: And Elsewhere

February 3, 2023 - March 11, 2023

Reception: February 3, 2023, 6pm-9pm

His brushstrokes bear the trace of his hand and gesture. It’s clear that he painted quickly and with conviction.

Robert Thiele: And Elsewhere

Emerson Dorsch is pleased to announce our next exhibition And Elsewhere, a selection of works by Robert Thiele. The starting point for And Elsewhere was the many iterations of black circles in Thiele’s work. In the show’s central piece, he reworks the pages of a 1931 issue of Art in America. The artist surreptitiously acquired the bound magazine from the Kent State Library while he was a student there in the mid-1960s. Thiele was among the men drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, and he’d already returned to teaching at Miami Dade College when he heard about the shootings at Kent State. In the 1980s, Thiele incised the text and image blocks from the magazine’s pages, replacing them with his own. He didn’t think of the project again until 2021, when he found that same issue in a stack of old magazines that he’d slated for the bin. He altered the pages once more, painting black, pink and red circles over each page, obscuring all identifiers of the image beneath. His brushstrokes bear the trace of his hand and gesture. It’s clear that he painted quickly and with conviction. The oil bleeds outward onto the page, lending evidence of the paint’s chemical composition. Installed in a wide grid that spans the room, the sheer number of circles lends force to the impression of what at first may seem to be just a form. It begs the question, why the circles, why the repetition? With this exhibition we explore these questions, to show how the artist breathed in his milieu and circumstance.

This work harks back to Robert Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic, which consists of about 100 paintings of black ovals from 1948-1967, though it also recalls Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased deKooning Drawing from 1953. Chance operations seem to play a role in the generation of abstract language – as automatism did for Motherwell. So does erasure, as it did for Rauschenberg. But the brutality of the cancellation of an image is as true for Thiele as it was for Motherwell, deKooning and Rauschenberg; it is an act of declaration of presence and absence at the same time. Thiele, having witnessed the tolls of Vietnam as well as those of 2020, has as much at stake in this imagery as they did. Well versed in the New York School, Neo-dadaist work, and conceptual art, Thiele deploys strategies in conversation with all of them.


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