Wheel of Steel

Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art.
October 1, 2009
Wheel of Steel, 2006, by Robin Rhod

Wheel of Steel, 2006, by Robin Rhode, South African, born 1976. Nine digital pigment prints mounted on four-ply museum board. 15 1⁄2 x 22 inches each. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University Fund for Acquisitions.

Raised in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and today based in Berlin, Robin Rhode has deftly merged the practices of drawing, performance, and photography. His work is shaped by South Africa's history of racial discrimination and the liberating forces of youth culture, and consequently, takes on both playful and weighty subjects. Music, graffiti, film, and sports are recurring motifs Rhode uses to explore issues of globalism, underdevelopment, and the commodification of identity.

Rhode is best known for expressive performances that involve the buildup and erasure of chalk and oil-stick drawings on outdoor spaces. He then interacts with these renderings, creating the illusion that they are three dimensional. These performances are generally exhibited as digital animation or a photographic series, as in Wheel of Steel. Through serial repetition, the completed work resembles the representation of movement in comic strips, but his drawings have their own beauty and integrity and stand both as remnants of the performance process and as works of art themselves.

Through his do-it-yourself aesthetic, Rhode exhibits an unusual ability to create narratives with the most basic and accessible materials. "Wheel of steel" is the term for a record player or turntable popularized by hip-hop deejays in the early 1980s. This work will be featured in the upcoming Nasher exhibition The Record, opening August 19, 2010.