Robb Stone is a friend and colleague that I had the pleasure of getting to know during my time at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Stone is experimental with materials, using bleach and acrylic on satin, acrylic on drop cloth and army tent material, and even acrylic on shower curtain. He works in a very washy style and usually makes large-scale paintings, layering several of them along the wall to induce a cinematic and narrative quality.
His earlier work showed his interest in pop culture and current events as he painted what can be described as infamous, narcissistic train wrecks – Lindsay Lohan and Heidi Fleiss in particular stand out among others. The paintings are executed unsympathetically, mocking celebrities most people would like to see buried under the ground. The themes of ‘narcissism’ and ‘train wrecks’ in a more meaningful sense reoccur prominently in the work he has made over the past 3 years, which features subjects who are acutely aware of being filmed, yet appear unthreatened by the film’s permanence and choose to partake in immoral, incriminating acts of violence and lewd behavior. Robb focuses on this behavior to the extent that it has been present in the US’s recent military involvement in the Middle East. So far he has focused on a series of isolated incidences, such as US soldiers urinating on dead Afghan bodies and the US Embassy’s guards in Kabul’s hazing rituals. The content of his paintings raises many questions: were these soldiers inherently immoral individuals, or did war make them that way? Is it possible to be in a situation so far from normal reality that anyone in that situation will lose their sense of morality? Does the context of these soldiers’ surroundings allow for them to believe they are partaking in acceptable behavior? The show-off behavior of these soldiers is perplexing; they are not at all compelled by the presence of the camera to hide their face in shame. Instead, they embrace the exposure.