Animating the Everyday

Carefree. Playful. Insightful. Charming. A romp. Clever. Inventive. These are the words that came to mind seeing the work of Robin Rhode at the Neuberger Museum.  What a joy it was to viscerally connect with a fresh, new body of work that explores imagination with a piece of chalk and an urban street as a blackboard. So smart and simple a concept, so down to earth, it reminded me of the flip books we used to trade in the schoolyards of years ago. The work, Animating the Everyday, is a series of larger than life animations which are simple stories of everyday life.  Like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Rhode uses his magic piece of chalk to create, for example, seesaws, bicycles and climbing bars with real children superimposed on them and then animates with stop motion techniques.

Lest you think this is all about child’s play, think again.  South African born Robin Rhode believes his work is about “the South African mentality” in which people have experienced horrendous political turmoil, but are still able to find humor, laugh at themselves and believe in “the possibility of reinventing another world quite rapidly.” It is the post-Apartheid spirit of freedom that seems to drive Rhode to superimpose these imaginary playgrounds on city walls and in public spaces, bringing them to life with real children at play. This exhibition will touch many hearts in our country of immigrants where many have miraculously survived places like Nazi Germany, turf-torn Rwanda, and, yes, racism in America. My friend Joe spent the war years hiding in Russia, never daring to be seen, modeling his behavior to be invisible.  Survival is a common thread in this country where we cherish the freedom to enjoy a bicycle ride on the street in full view.

Image: Robin Rhode, Kinderstoel, 2011, digital animation, 2:20 minutes. Courtesy of the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and White Cube

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