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Robin Rhode


8 June – 9 July 2011


8 June – 9 July 2011

For his second exhibition at White Cube, Rhode presented five animations that take the chair designs of Dutch furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld as a starting point. A member of the De Stijl movement, Rietveld aspired to bring high design to the masses. A precursor to the 'flat pack' furniture style now prevalent, Rietveld's designs 'advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and colour'.

In the work 'Piano Chair', the chair acts alongside Rhode's doppelganger as an accomplice to a crime - in this case the annihilation of a piano. Expanding upon a scene created by Rhode for 'Pictures Reframed' (a collaboration with the composer Leif Ove Andsnes), 'Piano Chair' presents the unusual scenario wherein a composer tries to 'kill' his piano. In the original work, the composer succeeds in drowning his piano by taking it out to sea, and here the protagonist persists with his futile, self-destructive pursuit by attacking the piano with, in turn, a rock, a knife, an axe, a pillow, fire and, ultimately, hanging the piano by a rope and kicking the chair away. The work has a playful Buster Keaton-esque sense of the absurd, tempered only by the forlorn appearance of the defeated piano.

Rhode used a two-screen projection for 'Military Chair', where a chair now acts as a prop for a performance. In the left hand screen, we see a soldier, dressed in street camouflage, take the 'military' chair and repeatedly toss it in the air, his jolting, staccato movements reminiscent of body-popping. The chair begins to break, until only the white seat is left, finally disappearing off screen. Mirroring this on the right, we see the uniformed general start his own chair dance, but his chair remains in one piece - elegantly floating above and beyond his reach, but always in frame. The work is accompanied by a jerky, scratchy soundtrack, suggestive of a sword fight and the animation ends with the two protagonists coming to rest in a face-off, only one chair remaining.

In the upstairs gallery, Rhode presented two new series of black and white photographs inspired by the French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal whose 1653 treatise on the arithmetical triangle became known as 'Pascal's Triangle'. 'Pascal's Plates' consists of fifteen works that depict a variety of triangular forms, whilst 'Typing Steps' is a work in Rhode's typical storyboard style wherein the principle character 'types' out numbers from the Fibonacci numbering system - where each number is the sum of the previous two numbers - that magically appear on the wall in front of him.

Rhode was born in Cape Town in 1976 and raised in Johannesburg, graduating from the South African School of Film, Television and Dramatic Arts, Johannesburg in 2000. He has been included in several notable group exhibitions such as 'How Latitudes Become Forms', Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis (2003), 'The Experience of Art', Italian Pavilion, 51st Venice Biennale (2005) and 'The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture from 1839 to Today', MoMA, New York and Kunsthaus Zurich (2010-11). The Haus der Kunst, Munich staged Rhode's first major museum solo show 'Walk Off' in 2007 which was followed by his first UK institutional solo show, 'Who Saw Who' at Hayward Gallery in 2008 and his first US museum solo exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2010.

A fully illustrated catalogue, with a text by Skye Sherwin was published to accompany the exhibition.

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