Artist profile: Dan Robison

Hamline art student Dan Robison finds consistency in layers of purist art.

Robison's recent projects are sculpted animals made from a combination of his completed work and found objects.
PHOTO COURTESY JOE BERLIN

Robison’s recent projects are sculpted animals made from a combination of his completed work and found objects. PHOTO COURTESY JOE BERLIN

John Sand

Art is often discussed as the âÄúcreative work,âÄù implying that artists deal mostly in the creation of objects, but Dan Robison , an artist attending Hamline University, feels differently. âÄúEverything is equally sacred; it’s not constructing or destroying something,âÄù he said. RobisonâÄôs work revolves around the melding of media, incorporating sculpture and objects found on the ground into paintings whenever possible. Often, these found objects sit unused for years. âÄúIt tends to be a lot of things that are in the process of decomposing,âÄù said Robison, âÄúI will leave things outside for a winter and let them break apart.âÄù One of RobisonâÄôs works follows a trajectory of several layers, all wrapped into a product that is never really final. He made a sculpture last year and left it on the roof over the winter. âÄúThe next summer I burned it in a bonfire,âÄù he said. âÄúThen, I used burnt pieces to make puppets that I used in a film about a chair.âÄù Through the layering seems an arduous task, Robison warns against focusing on the process of creation. Instead, examining his pieces should be approached as an idea thatâÄôs constantly evolving into another piece. Although each piece seems complex, âÄúItâÄôs a minimal amount of action thatâÄôs taking place. There may be some materials IâÄôve been collecting, but the final stroke of the piece is just nailing them together. ItâÄôs a really simple action.âÄù This simple stroke gives way to sculpted animals made from leather and previous sculptures or transparencies of previous paintings that can be set over new work. RobisonâÄôs work revolves around the underlying feeling of creation. âÄúThat ethos is what I work with. IâÄôve been reading about purism … This French guy Amédée [Ozenfant] worked with art derived from constants.âÄù The idea behind purism is that no matter what form the art takes, or how it is interpreted, its underlying feeling and expression remain stable. âÄú[Austrian philosopher] Rudolf Steiner and [Russian painter and theorist] Wassily Kandinsky have that same idea of constant,âÄù Robison said. âÄúThere is spiritual fabric that is underlying and unchanging. ItâÄôs almost unrealizable because it’s fundamental fabric.âÄù This idea of purism can be extended into all forms of art. It ferments the idea that no matter how different two forms of art seem, great works all have that je ne sais quoi hiding beneath the exterior. âÄú[ItâÄôs] that feeling that you get when you listen to a Miles Davis song or you listen to Mozart , [the music] is totally different, but the feeling that you get is the same.âÄù Robison is also working on a student exhibition at Hamline called, âÄúLucifer the cat wandered out of town and never came back. What are you gonna do about it?âÄù The students are working to make sense of the earth and metropolitan areas that are constantly growing and cycling through resources. âÄúThis [industrial, commercial complex] expands out of control. ThereâÄôs no way we can stop it; itâÄôs going to self-destruct,âÄù said Robison. Even though that seems a reality, he said that itâÄôs not about trying to bring everyone together for some pseudo-Bob Marley world peace jingle. âÄúWeâÄôve already cycled through âĦ trying to explain why itâÄôs [expletive] up and damaging. Then, on to nihilism.âÄù