The ArtsLesson in postmodern history
Robin Van Arsdol
Through May 15 at Guinevere’s Café
39 S. Magnolia Ave.
Guinevere’s Private Café in downtown Orlando is currently featuring a solo exhibition of work by Orlando artist Robin Van Arsdol. This work from the 1970s is from his formative years, experimenting with various media and themes.
The show coincides with Process Art in the adjacent Gallery at Avalon Island. Van Arsdol, or RV, as he is also known, used techniques such as burning paper and spray paint to create images in some of his work. This artwork predates his street art, or graffiti, and gives insight into the experimental and process-driven side of Van Arsdol.
In most pieces, he has taken ordinary items and rendered them in silhouette using spray paint, which perhaps hints at what was to come for this artist. Symbolic qualities of the objects, often embedded in context with overspray, are left for the viewer to complete, and the pairing of many pieces such as the stove burners, targets and domestic iron forms give them an iconic presence.
Van Arsdol’s art from the ’70s gives an interesting window into a time when the art world was devolving. The 1970 suicide of Rothko marked in many ways the end of abstract expressionism as a movement, and much of the art world split itself between new directions: Robert Smithson’s earthworks, Eva Hesse’s ethereal sculptures, Andy Warhol’s pop art. Seeing these vintage pieces of RV’s evokes the great quest that art took in its search for direction and meaning at that key time (ably documented by Corinne Robins in The Pluralist Era).
With humorous titles, Van Arsdol’s disarming works are part of the next steps into the era known now as postmodernism. Most of these pieces lie firmly within the movement known as conceptual art, wherein the process becomes part of the art. Burning paper, shooting targets, spray-painting spray-paint cans and other self-referential processes are more about the artist’s thoughts and procedure for creating a work of art. RV’s work is a part of postmodern art history and worth the visit by artists, art lovers and students.