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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Fine Arts

Video artist brings flurry of colors to Blaffer


Famous video and film artist Michael Robinson screened his colorful work during the On Screen at Blaffer series Monday evening. Mixing media from the 1990s, his film produced emotional and personal stories. | Courtesy of Michael Robinson

Internationally renowned experimental film and video artist Michael Robinson was invited to the Blaffer Art Museum to present a screening of his work for the inauguration of the “On Screen at Blaffer” series Monday night.

Much of his work revolves around 1980s and 1990s American pop culture. He incorporates film, television and music into new narratives that skim the surface of nostalgia and pull the audience into a different dimension.

“I think my work (has) the potential to put viewers in a mental space reminiscent of a funny nightmare which feels urgent, personal and engrossing, yet teetering on the edge of nonsense,” Robinson said.

“I’m inspired by both the things I love in the world and the things I find troubling or terrifying. I’m not really trying to replicate either, so my practice ends up centering around making sense of the things I feel conflicted about.”

Robinson presented eight short films that ran for about 70 minutes. Much of his art is a collage of found footage that creates intricate and sometimes sinister worlds where beauty and horror can be felt simultaneously.

His visual vocabulary is familiar to those accustomed to avant-garde movies. The use of flickering, solarizing, inverting and superimposing multiple images were tools in his arsenal, but those tools in his hands were used in different ways.

One of the most visually captivating films was “These Hammers Don’t Hurt Us,” in which Michael Jackson’s music video “Walk Like an Egyptian” was seamlessly stitched with clips from the 1963 movie “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor. Bright images of jewels, luxury and royalty that tied the new and old worlds together seemed to take the audience down a dizzying and exponentially alarming path to self-destruction. Though he relied on familiar images, Robinson created a unique universe that did not require context for immersion into his world.

“Every screening is different, and I try to take each one on its own terms,” Robinson said. “I was very happy to show my work at the Blaffer, and honored to be the inaugural event of their new ‘On Screen’ series. I think it was definitely a success; we got a good crowd. Everything ran smoothly and the audience had lots of questions.”

Many of the videos screened were originally produced on 16 mm film and transferred onto a digital medium. Because of this, Robinson created kaleidoscopic narratives of old and new worlds meeting. Though his films were colorful, they told stories about love, loss, beauty and the human experience.

Blaffer is able to invite international artists like Robinson through funding from the Innovation Grant program, which is provided through the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and funded in part by the Houston Endowment Inc.

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