Commonwealth and Council

Hysteron Proteron

Alex Robbins


Commonwealth and Council presents Hysteron Proteron, a collection of recent work by Alex Robbins. A hysteron proteron is a disorder of speech: a rhetorical device that literally means “later before.” It describes a temporally upended sentence where the effect precedes the cause. It can be used to emphasize the unavoidable consequences of an action, but is also synonymous with the preposterous.

While working primarily as a sculptor, Robbins’ series of paintings can be referred to as “compliments” and also sometimes “complements.” The common confusion between these terms speaks to the split personality the paintings embody: they are meticulous copies of early modernist paintings yet executed in the complementary colors of the originals. Brushstroke by brushstroke, the inverted colors manifest the afterimage that forms in the eye when a painting is stared at for too long. They capture brief perceptions of perceptions, phenomenological fluids made solid by an arduous hand.

Along with these “complements,” Robbins revisits a previous moment of inspiration through a sculpture titled Epiphany completed in 2008. This provides an opportunity to explore what could have been in its past potential and latent futurity. The artist’s interest here is in how the finality and individuality of a work can be upset by fleshing out a beneficial multivalence, an endless alterity, within its reticent form.

In a new sculpture, a 6 ft steel digging bar is cut into random pieces and spread out to the length of the gallery. It is a delicately broken tool now consisting of 30 hexagonal objects that remained dormant in its unbroken form. Originally a singular cast from molten steel, these cuts open up a backward dialogue into the object wherein the whole was never meant to be the sum of these particular parts. Finding a temporary balance in the context of this exhibition, the work lays bare a complex sculptural problem of conflating an object with its surroundings. 

Alex Robbins received his MFA from Goldsmiths College, London in 2006. Previous exhibitions include: Six Doors, The Other Room, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, NY; Primer III, The Luckman Gallery, Cal State L.A.; Primitive Accumulation, FOLD Gallery, London, UK; and 2010.2, MOT International, London, UK.