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Interview with Chicago artist Tom Robinson

When you meet Tom Robinson (www.tomrobinsonartist.com), it's like encountering a natural force in its untamed state. There's a warmth and friendliness coupled with a barely-contained energy, which is evident in the many activities that he has been involved with in Chicago, and nationally, for more than 30 years. He is an artist and sculptor who has designed furniture, created many public art projects, and was instrumental in setting up the Chicago Art Open, an annual showcase for the work of Chicago's vibrant and eclectic art scene. I met Tom in his huge new studio and gallery space on the opening night of the show 'Drawing Attention'.

Philip
: You work in a variety of media. Do you see common threads or themes when you move between drawing, painting, sculpture, and constructions?


Tom: I work in series and am very procedural, so each piece of work starts independently of the other. I would like to believe each medium eventually peaks into one thing.

Philip
: What are you working on at the moment?


Tom
: I am currently working on two series of work, plus another project. The first is a series of wood mosaics called “Twins” that I have created over the past 5 years.


They are mirror images of each other. The mosaics are all composed from natural woods, triple glued to a quality plywood base. They are cleat-hung and stand about two inches from the wall. They are totally flat with only a slight curvature to the eyes.


The second series is “After Apnea”. These panels are oil and charcoal on two sheets of 30" x 44" bfk Rives drawing paper. They are executed over portraits that I have drawn on both sides. Some of the old drawings stick out in places. The final size of each piece is approximately 30" x 84". 
Apnea, former “Suicide Girl” and internet sensation, is given a credit on each piece. There are ten pieces in total.


I am also working on a project called “Make Believe”. This is a competition for the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce to create public art in unrented storefronts in the neighborhood.

Philip
: You've curated many exhibitions, both in Chicago and across the USA. How did you become involved in the world of curating and organizing shows?


Tom
: I was drafted into the presidency of the Chicago Furniture Design Association in 1984, and I never looked back.


Philip
: Which show that you organized are you particularly proud of?


Tom
: The Chicago Art Open - 1999.


Philip
: You've recently moved to a large studio and gallery space on North Avenue. What are your plans for the gallery?


Tom
: I have just signed a 5 year lease. I'm hoping for better economic times so I can develop a regular exhibition schedule. I would like to specialize in shows related to drawing.


Philip
: Could you say something about the current show in the gallery?


Tom
: It's a show of drawings related to the figure called 'Drawing Attention'. All the work in the show was made by artists attending the weekly life-drawing session here, and it shows a wide range of drawn and painted responses to the figure.


'Drawing Attention' is showing at the Tom Robinson Studio/Gallery, 2416 West North Avenue, Chicago, until June 26th

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