Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interviews with Robby Herbst by DAC Interns

Untitled (New Pyramids for the Capitalist System 1), watercolor and gauche with pencil on paper; 59.5x54"

 Here at Dumbo Arts Center, we strive to make sure everyone has access to the artists we work with and has a voice. Our current high School Interns Danielle and Jimmy were curious about Robby Herbst’s recently concluded exhibition New Pyramids for the Capitalist System and had a few questions for the artist.

Jimmy A. Interviews Robby Herbst

Jimmy:  What’s the deal with the chairs? I don't understand why they're there. Does the type of chair have to do with where its placed?

Robby: Yes, the placement is thought out. Try sitting on the top chair, then you'll figure it out.

Jimmy: Looks kind of scary.

Robby: Yeah, right.

Jimmy: Did any of your art reflect on your grandfather’s opinions on capitalism?

Robby: My grandfather died before I was born. I don't know his opinions on capitalism? What are yours?

Jimmy: Capitalism is violent but it gives people freedom, I guess.

Robby: Freedom ain’t necessarily liberty.

Jimmy: What were the ethos of the models in your drawings?

Robby: What do you think they are?

Jimmy: I don't know. They all look like happy people who've been given instructions. Can't really say much about their character because I wasn't there!

Jimmy: Can you do acrobatic stunts? Were there certain structure/rules the performers had to follow? Did they have to be trained?  Did they come up with any of the positions?

Robby: I worked with a former cheerleading captain from a highly competitive program in Oklahoma. She was also crowned Belly Dancer of the Universe (no shit). She helped me work with these acrobats for two rehearsals. We came up with what we did as a group - though I decided on what I wanted things to look like ideally.

Jimmy: Yeah, that is cool and all but can YOU do any of that stuff?

Robby: I can do some of the stunts.

Jimmy:  Why didn't you use more color in your art? Most of the art is just black and white or simple reds and blues. Why?

Robby: Black and white tells no lies. Otherwise my dad is a color-field painter and I inherited his belief in the power of a restrained palette.

Danielle J. Interviews Robby Herbst
"If you felt like throwing yourselves on the wheels of economic injustice in any way shape or form, that would be swell."

Danielle: To me, this all means that the people in the paintings and drawings are showing the effects of capitalism, and how people struggle to make ends meet. The poor are at the bottom, the wealthy are second to last, the soldiers are in the middle, the religious people close to the king, and the person with all of the power is the richest of them all. What is the message in the pencil drawings?

Robby: There is no "message" in the drawings; the overall message is in the show, I guess. The drawings are representational - the work is transparent - they are what they are. One of the drawings is of a person dressed as a cop standing on the back of a person dressed as some kind of manager. The other two are of people costumed as workers holding up people costumed as managers. In all three drawings, I was interested in the body language of the actors and the expressions on their faces.

Danielle: How does this effect us now?

Robby: Honestly this work is not conceptualized to have an immediate effect. It's meant to have an affect - that is to stick in your mind and effect your attitude, or thoughts, or reflections in the medium-to-long term. In the first iteration of this work, when I was doing the pyramid performances in Downtown LA's occupation at City Hall - it was designed to have an immediate effect - that is to get folks down to the occupation and to work through roles of being a "worker," "manager," "police officer," "clergy," or "capitalist." Through this process of organizing amateur acrobats and an audience down at LA's occupation I was interested in the immediate goal of supporting the presence of individuals at the occupation for economic justice.

The goal of the art show in Dumbo is different. It is representational and works in the way that a book works - it is a "cooler" form of art (as in Marshall McLuhan's conceptualization of hot and cold media). It is reflective and asks you to consider, not act. If you consider and then want to act, then that is ideal. If you felt like throwing yourselves on the wheels of economic injustice in any way shape or form, that would be swell. If you think about the work, that's swell too.