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Robert Cronin: Paintings


FROM NOVEMBER 6TH THROUGH DECEMBER 15TH, 2007, ZABRISKIE GALLERY EXHIBITS NEW PAINTINGS BY ROBERT CRONIN. Working with oil on canvas, Cronin has created imaginative still lifes.

Robert Cronin’s series of still lifes are buoyant arrangements of fictional objects. Traditionally, still lifes have an academic stasis to them because they are arranged expressly for the artist’s observation. The Still Life is a paradigm because it is easy: inanimate household objects make simpler subjects than buildings or people because they do not demand the artist leave the studio to deal with changing lighting or shifting expressions. But Cronin has foregone these conveniences, opting instead to just make the whole thing up. The result is comic: where traditional still lifes are weighty and stationary, Cronin’s objects seem ready to drift away; where objects are usually familiar, Cronin gives us strange inventions, and even a saltshaker takes on an other-worldly glow.

Cronin’s past work in sculpture informs his paintings. His subjects are distinctly corporeal at the same time as seeming weightless. They are arranged on sculpture pedestals rather than tables, with only the rare tablecloth recalling a domestic scene. Along with toasters and books, Cronin includes amorphous lumps and purely sculptural elements, testing what objects are allowed to be in still lifes. The leaning slabs in Tablets are a quaint rebuttal of Richard Serra, but are they steel or pieces of toast?

Like Philip Guston, Cronin is able to squeeze great atmosphere out of simple – even comic – arrangements. The alien lighting lends a mood of surrealism-in-miniature, as if Ernst would have worked from a Cronin maquette. The objects hover with dreamlike significance, but they deny interpretation with their cartoon simplicity. At bottom they are funny because of the whimsical nature of the still life – is it just another bowl-of-fruit with anthropomorphic-hamburger, hovering over a pedestal?

Robert Cronin received his degrees at RISD and Cornell University and has taught at Bennington College and Brown University. His work is in the collections of many major museums including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Academy Museum, New York, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This is his second show at Zabriskie Gallery.

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