Robin Rhode (b. 1976, Cape Town, South Africa; lives and works in Berlin) engages photography, performance, drawing, and sculpture in creating visual narratives that are brought to life using quotidian materials such as soap, charcoal, chalk, and paint. Rhode came of age in the newly post-apartheid South Africa and was exposed to new forms of creative expression motivated by the spirit of the individual rather than dictated by a political or social agenda. The growing influence of hip-hop, film, and popular sports on youth culture as well as the community’s reliance on storytelling in the form of colorful murals encouraged the development of Rhode’s hybrid street-based aesthetic. Rhode is best known for his photographic series that document a protagonist interacting with murals the artist painted on public walls in Johannesburg and Berlin. In the succession of photographs, the movements of the actor or group appear to alter the two-dimensional renderings, compressing space and time and transforming the urban landscape into a fictional storyboard. Melding individual expression with broader socio-economic concerns, Rhode’s work reveals a mastery of illusion, a rich range of historical and contemporary references, and an innate skill for blending high and low art forms.
Rhode studied at the University of Johannesburg as well as at the Association of Film and Dramatic Arts (AFDA), from 1996 to 2001. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized by the Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, the Netherlands (2021); Kunsthalle Krems, Krems an der Donau, Austria (2020); Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany (2019); Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland (2018); Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel (2017); Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2016); The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2015); Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY (2014); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2013); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2010); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2009); Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2008); and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2007). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Allied with Power: African and African Diaspora Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL (2020); Radical Revisionists: Contemporary African Artists Confronting Past and Present, Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, Houston, TX (2019); Prix Pictet 2019: Hope, Victoria and Albert Museum Porter Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2019); NOW: Jenny Saville, Sara Barker, Christine Borland, Robin Rhode, Markus Schinwald, Catherine Street, National Galleries, Edinburgh, Scotland (2018); ERWARTUNG, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland (2017); Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France (2017); Virtual Frontiers, Art Basel and Google Arts & Culture Virtual Reality Project, Hong Kong (2017); Shifting Views: People and Politics in Contemporary African Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, MD (2016-2017); Making Africa. A Continent of Contemporary Design, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany, traveled to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (2015); Drawing Now, The Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria (2015); GOLD, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL (2014); and Staging Action: Performance in Photography Since 1960, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2011). Rhode has participated in multiple biennials/triennials, including the Busan Biennale (2017); the 56th Venice Biennale (2015); PERFORMA 15 (2015); the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012); Yokohama Triennial (2005); and the 51st Venice Biennale (2005).
Rhode’s work is included in numerous public collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Collection Martin Z. Margulies, Miami, FL; The Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; George Economou Collection, Athens, Greece; Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa; Julia Stoschek Collection, Düsseldorf, Germany; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI; MTV Networks, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo, Norway; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; Perez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL; The Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.
Rhode has also received numerous awards, including the 2018 Zurich Art Prize, Zurich, Switzerland; the Young Artist Award 2011, A.T. Kearney, Germany; the 2007 Illy Prize, Art Brussels, Belgium, and ars viva 05/06 Identität/Identity Award, Berlin.