Robert Zehnder “Ageless Machine”


poster for Robert Zehnder “Ageless Machine”
[Image: Robert Zehnder "Blood and Steel" (2022) Oil on Canvas Over Panel, Artist's Frame, 48.5 x 38.5 in.]

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Mrs. presents Robert Zehnder’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, titled Ageless Machine. For this occasion, the artist considers the architectural space of a cathedral and its capacity to produce otherworldly spatial experience. The interior of the gallery has been painted a deep forest green, while Zehnder’s signature colorful, surrealistic landscapes surround patinaed, cast-bronze sculptures which resemble the expressionistic trees found in his wall works. The front of the gallery holds a triptych of shaped canvases, illusory gothic arches that, along with the bronze sculptures, transform the space into an all-encompassing experience; a machine that is fully invested in an inquiry of a manufactured belief and the psychological journey therein.

In this exhibition, Zehnder’s landscapes emerge from a private psychodrama, borne of feelings of isolation, anxiety and a critical obsession with art history. In contrast to the profound complexity of nature, the artist uses a reductive visual vocabulary to imagine estranged landscapes, divorced from the reality and detail of nature itself. His canvases explore the psychology of naturalism and are animated by notions of the sublime, as described by Edmund Burke: That which has the power to compel and destroy. Inspiration from the post-industrial landscapes of American Regionalists weave further complexity into this tapestry of surrealism. Depictions of the artifice of modernity defined American painting in the early twentieth century and are mirrored in the volatility and uncertainty of this moment.

Ageless Machine, 2021, is the titular painting of the exhibition. In monochromatic sepia, gestural brush strokes paint an unstructured heart with a tree burgeoning from its center. The heart sets itself in a body of land, perhaps stones or boulders. Pairing the dueling qualities of an antiquated map or blueprint with the freshness and urgency of a drawing, the artist presents us with a dichotomized dilemma. Mirroring the energy of Ageless Machine, the arched canvases in the exhibition function as stained glass windows, entryways to some holy place; cartographic and celestial. Their imagery shifts toward foundational human obsessions: love, lust, and death. It is here where, unlike in the church, the viewer is challenged to decipher the symbolic and the natural for themselves.

In opposition to the severity of the monochromes, Zehnder’s landscapes have become more opulent, with forms blending and intersecting at a higher rate. Twists and pinches disrupt the surface and plane, beginning to form noncommittal symbols. Chaotic and uncertain, their presence is not visually unfamiliar. The bronze forms from Zehnder’s paintings are materialized into the third dimension, marking time by their oxidation. Sphere Tree and Tear Tree feel like heavy ornaments on gates or doorways, entrance points that forewarn.

-Based on a longer text by Misael Oquendo.

Robert Zehnder (b. 1992, New Jersey) earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. Zehnder’s work has been included in exhibitions at venues including Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York, NY; C L E A R I N G, Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA; Mrs., Maspeth, NY; RUSHMAN, Laura and Jacket Contemporary, Chicago, IL; Spider Gallery, Wichita, KS and the Ox-Bow School of Art, Saugatuck, MI, among others. Zehnder currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.



from September 06, 2022 to November 05, 2022

Opening Reception on 2022-09-10 from 16:00 to 19:00


Robert Zehnder

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