7/10/09 3:06 PM
The themes and tactics of Jack Robbins’ public and gallery projects link up across the body of his work. Concerns center on the connections between animals and people, people and man-made developments, and back to their effect on animals again. The strategy for making these connections clear is often the literal tactic of 1 + 1 = 2, where Robbins provides the elements of the first part of the equation and viewers come up with the answer at its end. (Which is not to suggest there’s only one right answer. There never is in any good art.) Thus in his “Carbon Emission” series, standard automobile mufflers meet intricate butterfly and floral designs, for an uncomfortably pretty marriage of industrial polluter and its natural prey. Butterflies and flowers do not in exhaust bloom, and only a die-hard sports utility vehicle owner could think otherwise. The rest of us will get the message easily enough, so where the unexpected can happen with this work is in the sheer incongruity of a decorative muffler, a muffler made lovely and glittery, a muffler made girly. Ironically enough, however, Robbins’ muffler might just make the perfect accessory for the lady who loves her S.U.V., content in her ignorant view that the butterflies will survive, somehow. No matter how many miles she drives in her gas-guzzler.