This is the first exhibition of Robilliard’s work in New York since 1990.
David Robilliard, who was active as both a poet and artist, was born in 1952 in Guernsey (Channel Islands). After moving to London in 1975 he became integrated into the rich artistic and sexual cultures of the city. Robilliard met the artists Gilbert & George in 1979 and enjoyed a close relationship with them throughout the 1980s (writing of him in 1990 the artists said that “David Robilliard was the sweetest, kindest, most infuriating, artistic, foul-mouthed, witty, sexy, charming, handsome, thoughtful, unhappy, loving and friendly person we ever met… he went on to produce highly original poetry, drawings, and paintings. His truthfulness, sadness, desperation, and love of people gave his work a brilliance and beauty that stands out a mile”).
First exhibiting his work in 1984, Robilliard quickly developed distinctive linguistic and pictorial modes of working, both characterized by a reductive mode of expressing keenly felt emotion and observation. The paintings in the exhibition merge these languages into a particular form of “poem-paintings” in which Robilliard’s often fragmentary texts are coupled with simplified portrait forms. The works on paper separate text and image into distinct realms: while in his earliest works Robilliard presents his poetry unmediated by graphic intervention, later drawings are delicate portraits unaided by textual components. The exhibition will also display many of the poetry publications that Robilliard produced, and which were central to his creative output.
Robilliard died from an AIDS-related illness in 1988. He has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Royal Festival Hall, London (1992), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1993), and ICA, London (2014). His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.