Mark Robbins’s “Strong and Silent”

Jackson Leeds

Last Wednesday afternoon, Mark Robbins ’77 gave a talk at the opening reception of his new art show “Strong and Silent,” which is on display in the Clifford Art Gallery in Little Hall. As the former Dean of the School of Architecture at Syracuse University, Rob-bins is no stranger to the process of creation. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the International Center of Photography in New York City.

Robbins informed the audience about his new work, as well as his past at Colgate and his course of study. Several of Robbins’s former students and co-workers attended the reception as well. The audience was en-tertained by the large variety of visual mate-rial presented to them, as well as by Robbins’ sense of humor.

Perhaps the highlight of the lecture was when Robbins showed a new piece, entitled “Full Moon,” to the audience. By affixing a photograph of a man’s backside and tradi-tional architecture to night lights, Robbins has taken something normally considered kitsch and turned it on its head. It was also beneficial to see Robbins explain his work, seeing as it is both conceptual and complex.

In his new exhibit, a large variety of piec-es fill the space of the Clifford Gallery. In “Dominion,” Robbins uses national park-scented oil warmers, metal conduit and a stuffed otter to create an ironic simulation of nature. Adjacent circles made of metal have been mounted to the wall. Robbins has inte-grated several different colored oil warmers at certain points on the circles. The dizzy-ing aroma that is created serves to remind us that these smells are a poor representation of nature itself, despite how they are marketed to the consumer.

There is also a wide variety of photogra-phy, with subjects ranging from neoclassi-cal sculpture to seemingly normal, everyday life. In “Households,” Robbins juxtaposes photographs of couples with the spaces they share. By doing so, Robbins shows us the relationship between people and the environments in which they live. There is a certain beauty with which people’s spaces match their personalities in this series of intimate pictures.

The most exciting aspect of “Strong and Silent” is that it features a piece that was de-signed exclusively for Colgate, featuring players from the football team.

Robbins jokingly declared, “no students were harmed in the making of this piece.”

“Playbook,” a large mural, envelops one entire side of the Clifford gallery and forces the viewer to stand extremely close to players who are co-lossal in scale. It is a collage of muscular young men, all standing in various poses with some over-lap. The result is overwhelming, but it is clearly rooted in Renaissance depictions of the body. Robbins has updated the way in which we view the human figure as art.

Like any great photographer, Robbins has the capability to capture his subjects in a way that exposes their true essence. Even in a series of photographs in which Rob-bins has simply zoomed in on sculptures by neoclassical artist Hendrik Andersen, he still manages to engage the viewer, showing us what these forms look like when they are ab-stracted. “Strong and Silent” will be on view until October 14 and it’s a must-see, wheth-er you consider yourself a well-informed art historian or simply a casual viewer.

Contact Jackson Leeds at [email protected]