Robin Rose is a long-established painter specializing in ‘encaustic’ works[?], but back in 1979 he played guitar and synth for new-wave/punk band Urban Verbs (Warner) and regularly performed at clubs like CBGB here in NYC.

For Robin’s new exhibit, titled “Cypher” (April 7-May 17, American University Museum, Washington DC, info/pics), he changes gears and revisits those roots.

“Ascendant” (below, starting top-right) captures the skyward joy that comes when you catch a good groove. Gearheads, from top to bottom: that’s a 1965 Fender Stratocaster with reverse tremolo, gold guitar cable, Marshall 800 Lead Amp Head, 1960 Slant speaker cabinet.

“Isolation,” the circular work on the left, is assembled from 50 guitar effect pedals, with interconnecting cables. Robin explained that each pedal is an independent entity (in reality, and metaphorically), and each is connected to its peers, but through a loop that never accepts external input or offers external output. So, we can use this to consider the social world, where social circuits can also loop closed and cut off outside contact.

Robin’s daughter, a 16-year-old rocker, artist and Sonic Youth fan with Asperger Syndrome[?] color coded the pedals (note the rainbow gradation on the left side). Robin tells us: “When the decision came to arrange the direction of the pedals, she said ‘there is only one way they can go, Pointing IN.’ I asked why, and she replied ‘that made them lonely.'”

And I catch that lonely vibe: I first imagine myself standing in the middle of a dream pedalboard, but then I realize they’re all turned away from me.

We’re honored that Robin placed the Big Muff Pi at the bottom-center position. Thanks to Hemphill Fine Arts for the introduction. Images courtesy of the artist and Hemphill. Photography by Brandon Webster.

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