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Robert Frankel: A Prolific Auto-Didact

Artists need exposure to like-minded people to fully come into their own. For some, this resolve comes from years of academic training, mingling with formal circles, and dissecting individual works in class for hours. For others, like Robert Frankel, it comes from attending every local exhibition they possibly can, paying countless visits to museums, and most of all from the support and critique of their friends and family at crucial junctures of their life.

Farbe Ist Alles N°4, acrylic on canvas | 36” x 36” x 1.5”, copyright by the artist

For a long time, Robert worked a 9-5 job while raising a family in Chicago. During this time, he dabbled in art whenever he could, focusing on abstract paintings and wood sculptures. Attending gallery openings and surfing the internet to learn every minor detail helped increase his vocabulary of art.

In 2018, with a hefty dose of encouragement from my wife, I entered an open competition at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Coalition, and to my great surprise, they accepted two of my paintings! The next competition I entered was at an art gallery in Colorado where I won the best painting of the show”, he tells me. His profile has been on an upward climb ever since. In New York, he has exhibited at the 440 Gallery, SITE Gallery, Greenfield Gallery, and the Limner Gallery. He was one of four featured artists at an exhibition on Art and Architecture at the Chie Gallery in Milan. He has also exhibited twice at the Galleria Pall Mall in London. Recently, he exhibited for the fourth time at the Van Der Plas Gallery in New York City as part of their ‘Vor Kunst’ Exhibition. He has been featured in Outsider Art Magazine as well as Artist Portfolio Magazine. In 2018, he was one of 20 finalists selected for the Art Takes Manhattan Prize.

Wood Geo n°3, acrylic & aluminum mesh on wood | 20” x 30” x .75”, copyright by the artist

He recently exhibited two paintings at the Van Der Plas Gallery in New York, titled Dancing Raindrops #1 and Dancing Raindrops #2, about which he said, “When I originally had the dancing raindrop concept in my mind I thought of making artwork that would create positive energy and ultimately put a smile on the face of the viewer.”

Looking at his work, one feels overwhelmed with enthusiasm — amidst the palpable tension, the eye wanders, looking for a place to land but never finds it. It reminds me of the time Alexander Calder suggested that Mondrian should hang his pieces in the air so they can move, to which Mondrian replied, “My paintings are fast enough already”. Robert’s work evokes a similar emotion, a vivid passion that swirls and spirals, various entities gouging against one another, vying for a place of their own until finally, the painting attains a dynamic harmony: the work hangs in a perfect balance yet feels alive. The reckless tension forms an unexpected image that feels all the more familiar because of it.

He deconstructed his style for me in the following words, “I like to experiment with different colors hues, textures, and odd shapes to create motion and energy on the canvas. Often, my paintings are set in a loose geometric structure. It’s often difficult to remain focused on one point of the canvas without wanting to wander around. I have also thought a lot about how all material things are made up of both structure and empty space. I often try to capture this yin-yang tension in my work.”

Charting influences from the dreamlike stages of Marc Chagall’s paintings, the kinetic vibrancy of Yaacov Agam, the primal humanism of Jean Dubuffet, and the nuanced landscapes of Roberto Marx, Robert has transcended into a style that is distinctly his own. He is also a fan of Simeon Braguin’s work.

Jazz N° 5, acrylic on canvas | 30" x 40" x 1", copyright by the artist

On his website, Robert Frankel Art, one finds his foray into different subjects — categorized as jazz collection, geo collection, colors and shapes collections, farbe ist alles, and mixed media collections. Across all these paintings, his style depicts the deftness of a humanist auteur preoccupied with the expression of life in all its immediacy.


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