David Robinson at Diane Farris

Wednesday, October 2, 1996

By Matthew Kangas | Art in America, October, 1996

Drawing on his experience as a laborer on large-scale high rise construction projects in booming downtown Vancouver, 32-year-old David Robinson has cleverly adapted the daily danger of such work into his sculptures: assemblages of minutely welded metal grids on which realistically sculpted male figures are precariously perched. In a number of cases, including Perfect Imbalance (1991), By Any Means (1993) and Sliding Scale (1996), the works are suspended from the ceiling, further underscoring an air of delicate balance.

But practical dangers are not Robinson's sole subject. Caught in midair and relatively diminutive, his figures, which vary from 1 to 3 feet in height, focus the viewer's attention on the existential plight of the individual in a complex society. In By Any Means, a white figure embraces his own shoulders as he gazes downward. He seems to be caught on a landing between stairways ascending and descending to nowhere in particular. Sliding Scale is a less elaborate work. Here, Robinson has simply crossed two miniature I-beams and positioned a small figure on one of them. It is clear that a step in either direction would destroy the balance and send the figure falling.

The 1996 sculpture titled Sisyphus (Study on Inclination), which is apparently a study for a larger work, presents a tiny crawling figure inside a large upright open circle. This circle is set in grooves cut into a supporting structure that curves up on two sides. Lacking the impassive dignity of the other works in the show, this depiction of futility unfortunately comes across as anecdotal and cartoonish.

In Artifice & Edifice (1993-96), the humanity/technology dialectic is compressed as the figure is absorbed into a machinelike system. A long horizontal crane structure almost 12 feet long is attached around the waist of the polyester-gypsum effigy standing in as a petty Colossus. This figure is also pinioned at the neck and shoulders by wires that help support the crane. Static and impassive like all Robinson's sculptures, Artifice & Edifice seems to depict a man inextricably entangled in some massive undertaking. One wonders what conclusions to draw from the fact that Robinson's figures always seems to be quietly accepting of their fate.