Robert Taplin
East Gallery: March 17 – April 22, 2023 

Opening Reception: Friday, March 17, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Virtual Artist Talk: Friday, April 14, 6:30 pm 

 The intellectual and aesthetic milieu of the past thirty or forty years has insisted that truth is socially constructed, mediated by forces outside the individual and inaccessible except through a distorting screen of perceptual, political and cultural bias. Working with these assumptions, the role of the artist has been to expose the lie, reveal the hidden agenda, and break the dominant image. This iconoclastic fury has turned back to bite us. As the likes of Steve Bannon have taken up the banner of deconstruction, we are forced to admit that cultural evolution has moved in directions that Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida failed to anticipate. Fake news and the death of the author are related concepts.


I see our current dilemma in the context of the ongoing struggle between the rationalist (Enlightenment) and the Romantic (Anti-enlightenment) forces of Modernism, that have been in contention since the eighteenth century. Post-modernism, post-structuralism and deconstruction are all fervently anti-enlightenment lines of thought that decry any claim to universal principles and assert that everything is political, contextual and provisional – all nurture, no nature. While this has been a much needed correction to the bogus universalist claims of imperialism, colonialism, racism and sexism, it has become a revolution that is eating its children. In our current catastrophe the idealistic aspirations of the Enlightenment , “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” begin to look important again .


One way to repair this situation is to look to artists who have successfully found a détente between the opposing, yet entangled forces of modernity – the rational and the irrational, the universal and the local, the progressive and the traditional, the classical and the vernacular, the quotidian and the mythic, the political and the personal. Francisco Goya, George Eliot, Paul Cezanne, Charles Ives, Bertolt Brecht, Elie Nadelman, David Smith, Edward Hopper, Thelonious Monk, Leon Golub, Phillip Guston, William Tucker, Elizabeth Murray, William Kentridge, Judith Shea, and Kerry James Marshal, among many others have reached for this equilibrium.