Walter Robinson’s romance pictures, now on view for the first time in a quarter century at Metro Pictures in Chelsea, put the error back into eros. Danger penetrates and emanates from his fatal femmes. His men, prettily balanced on the edge of manliness, simply exist as prey.
This conceit is a sly inversion of the film fantasies at the source of Robinson’s desire, for, as with Warhol, it is the men that emerge, because of their expressive vulnerability, as the objects of affection, and the women as the hounds of hell.
You are going to hear a lot of balderdash about Walter Robinson’s work as forerunners of John Currin, Karen Kilimnik and others. Don’t believe it: they never heard of these paintings and Robinson’s oeuvre proudly stands on its own, sui generis.
Walter’s bold application of paint, in decidedly garish colors, is straight from the Left Bank of the Seine where weekend painters dabble, and his palpable sense of erotic yearning is that of the harlot wronged and the trick spurned.
Passion becomes more than the abyss of a giant deception. After coitus and the subsequent high price you pay for it, these paintings are a souvenir, if not a memento mori.
Slice open that passion and let the fluids drip on the canvas until they form a face. That is Robinson’s secret sauce. His paintings remind you of your first wife, your second flame, the face on the subway, the face across the pillow.
Sex sears and sex sells, so journey over to Metro Pictures and pick up a painting. Your old, but new, Robinson will always remain a cautionary lesson in love.
"Walter Robinson: ‘80s Paintings," Apr. 5-May 3, 2008, at Metro Pictures, 519 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).