Robert Yoder; artist & founder of season.cz
November 26, 2020
It could be rare to find, amongst all of this, someone who is capable of blending life with work and balancing those positions,favourably. although it is becoming more "normal" and as it may seem that it all fits hand in hand, there can be challenges. One's life purpose and one's containment is profoundly euphoric and abject at the same time, at the moment. The struggles are sometimes indescribable but we remain all in it together. Perseverance and devotion to one's own preservation through art practice and one's devotion to promoting other artists works is determinedly sincere.
Such as Robert Yoder, an example, an artist with a gallery, SEASON, developed solely to promote the work of artists since 2010. In the galleries current, tenth annual exhibition, BORN TO BE ALIVE, Yoder has curated a wide-ranging exhibition featuring nearly 100 artists, a lot of work with a lot of connectivity which is most important right now. In having access to all of this work for a few months, Yoder explains, "I’m completely interested in what an artist has to say, and more so selfishly, what do they have to say to me. I’m living with the work for three months and as I gain insight into the work I can spread that knowledge to visitors. It’s really a luxury to have this kind of access and I don’t take it for granted."
Yoder's artwork is brash, not in a noisy, rude way, in a self assertive, determined way. The works are clean, map like, using unique materials such as duct tape, towels and carpets, which question their function and how we experience loss and evaporation of existence. The paths can be followed, they change or disappear, leaving a focus on the questions and answers that one positions themselves to answer, to make it all work and/or not work.
Yoder's oeuvre, thus far, remains, in its simplicity, minimal and expansive, at the same time, and in this moment...
It is no longer a question of refusing on principle, it is now for the sake of self-preservation.
-Artist Statement by Robert Yoder
Although I am fully invested in the final imagery, I experience a detachment from the work and feel emotionally evasive throughout the creation process. It seems I'm always thinking about loss, and how that crushing melancholy just seeps into every action and thought. I am withholding and introverted, and my disconnection during the art making process feels natural. There is a weird notion of anonymity I'm trying to maintain. I don't purposefully think in terms of autobiography, although there have been a few veiled self portraits along the way. They act as some extension that has a better grasp on the balance between nuance and blatancy. I have recently introduced large amounts of black into the paintings. The density of these works creates a roughness and adds a punk/SM aesthetic to the overall collection. I am drawing again, directly with paint from the tube onto the canvas; and on paper, directly and indirectly with simple transfer processes. They are hard, graphic and unapologetic with their subject matter and intention.
I'm interested in identity and how we portray ourselves to others. Fashion has a way of presenting an incomplete persona. I grew up thinking I could find my social group just from reading signals in clothing. There were silent statements being made by what everyone wore--I listen to this music, I associate with this group, I have these beliefs. These signals can be misleading and at best they are aspirational and how we react to them is interesting to me. My current work also addresses ideas of negation and how things can be redacted or disguised. A chameleon-like identity, one that can shift and flow according to the surroundings, is a self preservation trait that allows for one to continue. These ideas mix with various levels of importance to me when I am painting, no one idea is completely evident in any work, these are just things that I am thinking of.
you mention that your process has shifted, using black, drawing again, squeezing paint directly from the tube to the paper. "They are hard, graphic and unapologetic with their subject matter and intention. " Can you expand on this shift in your practice and how you have managed the outcome?
Robert Yoder: These actions, especially ones that are dramatically different from accustomed practices, are valid and important and should not be ignored. I’m fine with spending time on work that “fails.” Ultimately, I don’t think it fails as it adds another tool to one’s practice and expands the language the artist is speaking. For me I can’t imagine making the same painting over and over and over. It works for others but not for me, once I’ve explored and answered my questions, I feel free to move on to other concerns, and that may well mean using other materials or ways of making a mark.
For your last exhibition you said: "There was an emphasis on failed masculinity and the attempts to hide the failure." Why is the notion of disguise important to you in your work?
RY: Disguise is self preservation. Identity has been a long standing core to my work and only now am I clear as to which nuances of that topic are interesting to me. Disguise creates alter egos that are easily accepted, once in, they can learn the rules in order to break them.
The current exhibition at your gallery SEASON, “Born To Be Alive" is tremendous, featuring almost 100 artists; this is the tenth year of exhibitions, the first being in 2010 when you opened SEASON; can you share how this exhibition compares to the first and some things that you have learned along the way?
RY: When I first opened, I had a few “rules” for the gallery. I didn’t show friends just because they were friends; I wanted all shows to be two person shows with one local artist and one national/international artist, and every show would be one male and one female artist. In 2010 issues of representation and fairness were often talked about among artists and I wanted to be aware and mindful. A few years later and I came to the conclusion these things mattered less as far as actually having them addressed and acted upon, and were more interesting as a topic of conversation when artists got together. I started doing solo and group shows and fully embraced a “this is me, this is what interests me” mentality. Now I’m completely interested in what an artist has to say, and more so selfishly, what do they have to say to me. I’m living with the work for three months and as I gain insight into the work I can spread that knowledge to visitors. It’s really a luxury to have this kind of access and I don’t take it for granted.
And how do you balance making art and running a gallery?
RY: It’s been pretty seamless. My studio work is generally slow and Covid hasn’t been a great inspiration to make art so I find I can easily switch between the gallery and the studio without much concern. The gallery has been very rewarding to me during lockdown as a way to share with others and start conversations and ultimately that is what I want my studio work to do, so it is not really a big difference between the two. Both are ways to communicate and so they both inspire me to work more.
What is coming up next for you and your gallery?
RY: Great question. This anniversary show has been a lot of work but it’s been tremendous fun too, I’ve reconnected with many artists and made some wonderful new connections, all of which has given me new ideas for shows. Right now I’m mostly looking forward to patching all the nail holes and giving the space a much needed new coat of paint!
Robert Yoder is an artist living in Seattle Washington. Yoder's paintings and collages have been shown across the country and internationally and are in numerous private and public collections including Boeing, Microsoft, Neiman Marcus, Twitter and the Seattle Art Museum. Yoder's work is included in the book-arts collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New York City Library System. Yoder has received many awards including a Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant. Yoder's work is represented by Frosch & Portmann in New York and Zurich, and Platform Gallery in Seattle. In 2010 Yoder opened the gallery, SEASON (http://season.cz) to promote local artists to the world and introduce international artists to Seattle. SEASON produces at least four shows a year and participates in art fairs.
Yoder's last show of recent paintings at Frosch & Portmann, in New York City, in 2019. Prior to that, Yoder had a show at Platform in Seattle and a small show at Laura Russo Gallery in Portland Oregon. All of these shows dealt with issues of identity and control, and placed an emphasis on failed masculinity and the attempts to hide that failure.
Yoder received an MFA in 1987 from the University of Washington with a focus in Fibers. Although Yoder does not weave anymore, the skills learned there, especially the attention to detail, greatly impact Yoder's current work.