Stuart V. Robertson
My practice oscillates between figuration and abstraction, and across painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, and installation. Each mixed-media expression parallels my fragmented existence as an alien living in the United States and Europe since leaving Jamaica at age sixteen.
I programmatically insert and reimage Black people into artworks that reject the distortion, misrepresentation, and erasure of Black history centered on degradation and suffering. I embrace light, color, materiality, and composition to create opportunities for witnessing, not occupying, scenes of Black life in its splendor and ordinariness. Rooted in my Monolith assemblages of post-consumption waste, my latest works depict metallic-skinned subjects in scenes from family albums, archives, and social media.
As I focus on the Black body as both vessel and substance, these intimate yet quasi-anonymous metallic portraits complicate the concept of skin color-as-race. They embody bling, shine, and glow to highlight the conspicuous consumption of Black bodies, resist erasure, and illuminate the duality of being coveted and discarded. In my world, Black skin is durable, weatherproof, conductive, magnetic, flexible, percussive, and indestructible. These lustrous figures offer unusual interactions with images of Blackness and invoke metaphors of skin colour that position skin as much more than an indicator of race.
Stuart Robertson paints with cardboard and tin cans like a dancehall lyric, making something grand out of seemingly nothing. Like the rhythm and poetics of Jamaican Patois, he weaves a multinational lens, embracing found objects and reclaimed materials. He brings us into the ‘yard’ to witness and celebrate Black lives, both ordinary and splendid, through his large scale portraits. His work offers a needed corrective to the deficit ways Black lives are typically represented through art and media.
—Terry Berlier, Associate Professor, Art Practice
Stuart V. Robertson (b. Kingston, Jamaica) is a mixed media artist who paints, collages, and assembles images of Black life inspired by the nostalgia for his birthplace, the lure of the American dream, and the African Diaspora’s future. His goal is to advance the tradition of painting through interdisciplinary discourse and material innovation to better serve the representation of the Black diaspora in contemporary art. Robertson received a BA in studio art from Davidson College in 2015, a MSEd from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, and MFA from Stanford University in 2020. His work has been shown in the Jamaica Biennial (2014) and, recently, in the Annual Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition (2019). This year, Stewy will be a Graduate Fellow at the Headlands Center for the Arts.