Robert Yarber: Return of the Repressed
September 8—October 30, 2018
Robert Yarber has warned against trying to tie down the content of his paintings through a futile search for meaning. “These works are not distilled in any way,” the artist has written, “either in my own mind or anyone else’s. They’re open to interpretation. The spelunker of the future will go into these caverns of my mind and make of them what they will. I take responsibility for this. It’s dangerous.”
Rather than go down the rabbit hole that is the mind of Robert Yarber, ask instead a Foucauldian question: What conditions made these works possible? Chronology provides part of the answer. Yarber caught the crest of the 1980s postmodern wave, riding the return of repressed painting and given permission to break all the modernist rules. Properly installed, these works hang low, enveloping the viewer, who is sucked into the vortex that Yarber has punched in the flat grid of modernism. In these works from the ’80s, and nightmares painted the other day, the ecstatic mash-up of low culture bubbling up from an orgy of drawing masquerading as painting is permissible only when all that was serious and formalist has been put to death. The dark nightmares of suspended figures, in “Gas and Limited Oxygen” (2018), rimmed with garish slashes, seem to reflect our precarious times in which we are all trapped in drug-induced dreams from which we can’t awaken. Yarber’s Rimbaudian descents into blazing hells are the more fearsome for their resistance to interpretation. Meaning has been swallowed by fear itself.