Visual Arts Alum Abby Robinson '22 in Solo Exhibition at Tilton Gallery

Mădălina Telea Borteș
May 21, 2024

It feels like summer in the historic Upper East side townhouse where Visual Arts alumna Abby Robinson ’22 has covered the rooms, halls, and fireplaces of Tilton Gallery in canvas, netting, silk, wood, plaster, and bright shocks of oil and acrylic colors. 

Each of the twenty-five works on display in this solo show—entitled, simply, Abby Robinson—express Robinson’s confidence and trust in experimentation, materiality, and the physical experience of witnessing color interact with light, interact with shape, interact with line on surfaces as humble as plaster and as common as blocks of wood and canvas. 

Upon entering the gallery’s high-ceilinged rooms, one encounters Connected Forms, a 48” x 48” oil, acrylic, and comte-on-canvas painting that Robinson made in 2024. As in Robinson’s previous works, Connected Forms utilizes an additive grid on a square surface. In this moss, chartreuse, and pastel green painting, the surface dances: paint merges and pools, dilutes and settles, borders bleed yet somehow hold themselves into distinct organic forms, gridded ochre stains mark time. 

In Blue Dremel Drawing (36” x 36,” acrylic on wood, 2024), located in the gallery’s back room, one is presented with Xs, squiggles, and loops, smoke rings, and soundwave forms that are acutely reminiscent of a message scribbled into clouds. Anchored on the wall beside Blue Dremel Drawing is a plaster sculpture, Form (Orange) (6 ⅝” x 9 ½” x 1 ¾,” oil and plaster, 2023), which stands like a small burst of late-summer sunlight. 

'Abby Robinson,' installation view.

Installation has always been a component of Robinson’s practice. In her thesis exhibition at the Wallach Art Gallery in 2022, metal grids and chains hung from ceiling posts, bright-hued plaster rock formations were snuck high up or around corners, and while some paintings hung on walls, others were placed on the floor beneath them, extending a composition’s visual plane beyond the two-dimensional. 

In this current show at Tilton Gallery, the installation arm of Robinson’s art has taken a more playful turn, one that is especially appropriate for the unspoken yet pulsing sensibility in each of these works: an ever present and uninhibited state of play. 

Inside the entry-level’s fireplace, Robinson has placed Studio Index (Painting Edges), a compilation of oil and acrylic paintings rendered on canvas and wood and tied together by a delicate, raw thread (dimensions variable, oil, acrylic, leather, paper, and thread, 2024). On the mantel above, Robinson has installed Form (4th dimension Aluminum) (6 ½” x 9” x 1 ¾”), a flat-faced oval sculpture made from plaster and painted with flashe and shades of blue acrylic paint. Finding these organic plaster forms throughout the gallery is akin to an easter egg hunt.     

Upstairs, in the gallery’s street-side room, alongside five large-scale paintings that pay homage to texture, form, and color, one finds two walls filled with a smattering of Robinson’s geode-like plaster forms that that shimmer and vibrate, each more vivid, bright-toned, and unique than the other. 

Around mid-day, when the sunlight is most pronounced, the oil and wax applied on cotton, copper, and wood in Black Adjustable Grid (49” x 49” x 1 ¾,” set inside a custom-made wood artist’s frame, 2023) emits hues of blue-black so convincing that one has to peer in and out of the otherwise sleek but cavernous surface of this painting to check for specks of indigo and cobalt blue that are simply not there. 

What is both remarkable and an enduring feature of Robinson’s work is the way by which she employs the shape of a grid, the organic yet controlled shape of a line, and an unexpected mix of materials and tools to evoke memories and scenes in the mind of a viewer, scenes that do not themselves exist upon any of the canvases in representational form. 

Abby Robinson '22, 'Denim Relief,' (Acrylic, ink, and plaster cloth on canvas).

For instance, in Denim Relief (26 ¼” x 36 ½” 2,” acrylic, ink, and plaster cloth on canvas, 2024), the thick swatches of denim-hued, pearl-like paint spark associations of melting globs of gelato or ice cream, sunlight, sweat, and the taste of seaside salt, all in an equal, quite forceful measure. 

Whether capturing snapshots of the ineffable or explorations of time and process and experimentation in one’s artistic practice, Robinson continues to push the edges of abstraction, scale, materiality, and meandering shapes. 

Tilton Gallery is located at 8 East 76 Street and open to the public on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 6 p.m.

Abby Robinson (b. 1984, New Orleans, Louisiana) is a visual artist who lives and works in New York City. Robinson received her Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia University School of the Arts in 2022. Her work has been featured in New American Paintings (2022), Architectural Digest, and exhibited in several group exhibitions including at The Fireplace Project in East Hampton, NY, half gallery in New York, NY, bungalow at Westbeth Gallery in New York, NY, and Golsa Gallery in Oslo, Norway. Robinson lives and works in New York, NY. She recently displayed works at the Independent Art Fair with Tilton Gallery from May 11 to May 14, 2023. This summer, Robinson will be a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. She lives and works in New York.