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Robert Taite: Acrow Pillow Prop

September 16 - October 29 2016

On Robert Taite
This is one of my most significant childhood memories: in a moment of inspiration,
I saw my bedroom dresser as a stage. Democratically, I gathered every personal
effect within my vision and piled it onto the painted wood surface. I stacked and
sidled items up to each other, one form and colour nestling into the next, the
composition doubling and extending in the long mirror that sat between the
dresser and the wall. When there was no more to be considered, I went into my
mother’s bathroom, opened the cabinet beneath her sink and removed a near-full
container of baby powder and, looking upon what I had assembled, emptied its
entire contents onto my bedroom dresser. It drifted down lazily like snow, settling
over every object, mounding and filling crevices, making mountains and valleys
where there were hairbrushes, cassette tapes and stuffed toys. The real world
became otherworldly because it was cloaked in something my mother bought at a
drug store.
Robert Taite once told me that he wanted his work to be so formal that it might
create occasions for serendipity. His capacity for conjuring surprise comes from a
very particular acuity to surfaces and places. Taite is a proctor of common things:
lumber offcuts, decorator’s mis-tints, retired bedding, elastic bands (and the space
between them). Out of what exists—and with one eye toward its context—he
entertains relationships, allowing colour to find its presence in shape and shape to
emerge out of the way it generally wants to be. Like an 8 year old who knows
how to make his rec room a kingdom on an uncharacteristically rainy July
weekend, Robert Taite creates wonder from the most formalist of form. His
most recent works possess an air of recognition. They are lines and blocks that I
know, both from participation in a game that was living when I was a child and
working now that I call it art. This play, between the vast potential of what a
simple thing can be and the earnestness of its construction articulates the
tenuous gap between childhood and adulthood. Taite’s work fills this gap.
In the epic tome of his childhood person, Karl Ove Knausgård writes that
“Understanding the world requires you to keep a certain distance
from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as
molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as
cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length, we
bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer.
When it has been fixed we call it knowledge.”
The abstraction Robert Taite is concerned with in Acrow Pillow Prop is neither
magnification or reduction solely but rather the transitions in between. His
formal language is concerned with the zoom, the space between opening and
closing your eyes where stars can sometimes be seen on the inside of your
eyelids if you rub them just so. It comes from and describes a peculiar kind of
knowledge rooted in the very thingness of things and also in the way they float
about in the world. It is a game in which things are just as they are and
simultaneously everything they could ever become. This is what Taite is
concerned with fixing. That it could be possible from dumb matter and the
coloured skins Taite envelopes it in defies adult logic, but I sense that this is the
serendipity he spoke of. To be surprised in an old brain is hard, but I would
argue that to be surprised by formal abstraction is harder.
Jessica Bell
July 2016
Knausgård, Karl Ove, and Bartlett, Don. My Struggle: Volume 1. Harvill Secker:
London, 2012. e-book

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