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Conversations with Visual Artists: Bruce Robinson
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Conversations with Visual Artists:
Bruce Robinson

Pressure Points was created by Bruce Robinson, professor emeritus of the Columbus College of Art & Design. Robinson’s works are often borne out of questions he posits about social issues, in this case, elements of violence among young Black men in contemporary American society. In Pressure Points, the artist tackles this issue from two angles: strong-willed racism from society, in the vein of Trayvon Martin, and what Robinson describes as “Black on Black crime,” where Black men commit violence against one another. Robinson tackles these issues with the two Black male figures in Pressure Points, portraying a need for Black men to connect with and support one another as much as possible, given the complexity of contemporary culture.

According to Robinson, a few key elements of the work convey his message of unity and community reliance among Black men in the face of violence and hardship in society. For example, the figure in the supine position is intended to be ambiguous to the onlooker, leading Robinson to posit, is it “slipping away or is it being gathered up and caressed and nurtured?” Furthermore, the two figures are integrated into one work to suggest the challenge and importance of Black men connecting with and supporting one another. The yellow ribbons that weave through the sculpture have a dual meaning, says Robinson, representing the police tape found in areas where a person has been shot down by gang violence and the ribbons used as a symbolic measure of remembrance. Visible in the detail image of the sculpture, the anti-violence message is further communicated in the gun tattoo on the arm of the upright figure, bearing the Spanish words “No Más,” meaning “no more.”

Finally, Robinson grapples with nature versus nurture concerning issues that arise among young Black men, particularly with regard to violence in the community and the journey toward supporting one another. He states that his [End Page 120] sculpture represents a complex nexus of heredity and environmental factors as they come to bear on the Black male experience, noting that nature represents brain physiology and testosterone among young men that he believes factors into one’s ability to control impulses and foresee the consequences of one’s actions, whereas nurture represents the violent community environments within which many young Black men are forced to live. In an effort to express the influence of environment on these young men, Robinson paraphrased a gang member, who suggested that when one is born into a negative environment, one is already at a disadvantage, which Robinson indicated was an inspiration for the sculpture. [End Page 121]


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Bruce Robinson

Pressure Points, 2013

Oil paint and plywood

52 in. × 35 in. × 1 in.

[End Page 122]


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Bruce Robinson

Pressure Points (detail), 2013

Oil paint and plywood

52 in. × 35 in. × 1 in.

[End Page 123]

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