Dario Robleto: Life, Left to Struggle in the Sun

September 5 – October 18, 2014

Dario Robleto, Life, Left to Struggle in the Sun, 2012
16-part cyanotype, ghost images of original drawings, hand-written lyrics and poems by now deceased writers, pop stars and poets, sunlight, chlorophyll, ocean water, watercolor paper
(Keats, Cobain, Marley, Proust, Cash, Shakur, Lennon, Gainsbourg, Owen, Cobain, Jackson, Baudelaire, Morrison, Sassoon, Garcia, Poe)
each 15 x 13-1/2 inches

Cyanotypes were current during photography’s early experimental period, when the possibility of an instant frozen in time still had revolutionary implications.  Life, Left to Struggle in the Sun is a grid of sixteen cyanotypes in pursuit of just such singular moments.  But it’s indicative of Dario Robleto’s contrarian streak that the moments he’s chasing – flashes of creative inspiration by deceased writers and musicians – are no easier to nail down now than they were back then.

Each cyanotype is a print (a “ghost image”) of an original drawing or manuscript in its maker’s own hand.  Doodles and revisions abound.  As celebrated as these artists may have been, their cross-outs, hasty additions and simple drawings look anything but authoritative; some seem labored, some provisional.   This instability is amplified by the uncertain relationship between the prints.  The authors of these works lived in different eras, in different countries.  Some died young, some old, some quietly, some violently.

But, as tends to happen in Robleto’s work, connections gradually emerge.  Charles Baudelaire, an inspiration to both Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison, was an admirer and translator of Edgar Allen Poe’s, who in his turn admired the work of John Keats.  In some cases the manuscripts evince more than just admiration: Wilfred Owen’s draft of “Anthem for Doomed Youth” bears handwritten editing marks from his friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon.  Collaborations, influences and partnerships underlie many of these “individual” works and challenge the old myths of solitary artistic revelation.  Context seeps into the prints.  Keats wrote the draft of “Bright Star” shown here on a blank page of his collection of Shakespeare’s poems, on a trip to visit Percy Shelley.  John Lennon cited Yoko Ono as co-author of the song “Imagine,” whose lyrics grew from Ono’s book GrapefruitLife, Left to Struggle in the Sun replaces the conventional procession of great men and great works with a tangle of affinities, digressions and corrections.  Creative expression, it seems to imply, is less a sequence of thunderbolts than an ecosystem, less forward march than ebb and flow.

As part of their development process, cyanotypes are coated, exposed to sunlight, and then rinsed in water.  It is telling that Robleto chose to use ocean water mixed with chlorophyll.  The sun, the ocean and the seasons are in constant motion, but are also cyclical.  Sunlight is an eternally recurring series of unrepeatable glimmers.  These prints, infused with the energy of long-gone tides and light-rays, describe a similar continuum of unique events, spontaneous but with precedent, past but still immediate, distinct but intertwined. 


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