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ROBERT SCOTT WHIPKEY 

Critepolis
June 29 - July 28, 2019 
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 29, 6-8PM


Essex Flowers is pleased to announce Critepolis, a solo exhibition of new work by Robert Scott Whipkey.

The work in Critepolis emerged from a thought experiment Whipkey devised with the philosopher Rachel Aumiller: what art might adorn the interiors of doomsday bunkers -- now cropping up across the United States for the ultra-wealthy and middle-class alike -- in a post-cataclysmic world? This imagined art had to be tastefully reminiscent of the land that once was, and so Whipkey’s vision for this dystopia centers on the regional waterfalls of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills region of upstate New York.

Using a rudimentary grid method, Whipkey transfers a small photo referent, by hand, to a larger sheet of synthetic paper in color pencil. Once the drawing begins to emerge, the artist sprays a diluted pigment that he works back into when dry, obscuring the image and eventually reconstituting it through the process. The result is a hallucinatory landscape that shifts between seductive and indecipherable.

By focusing on these awe inspiring natural occurrences, Whipkey draws comparisons between the near-mythical status of waterfalls in pop culture and the quixotic relationship city dwellers have to the nebulous area of “upstate.” Taking inspiration from the Hudson River School, each drawing is paired with a type of Claude glass, a nineteenth-century optical device used to further dramatize the landscape.

As real estate speculation shifts the boundary of this amorphous region further and further outside of the city, and the space between fantasy and reality seems to collapse, Whipkey investigates how the physical land, and our relationship to it, has evolved. In doing so, the artist is concerned with how these different landscapes read today as a population braces for -- or denies -- climate change. Is a scenic vista, a spectacular and heroic vision of nature made popular by Hudson River School painters, now inherently distressing? Or rather, is a bucolic landscape now inherently political in the same way an image of a polar bear becomes imbued with the most apocalyptic fantasies of the future? Whipkey investigates how these questions shape our relationship to the land and images of it.


Robert Scott Whipkey was born in 1985 in Rockford, IL. He attended art school at Northern Illinois University before completing his BFA at Columbia College Chicago. Afterward, Whipkey taught drawing and bookmaking at the Center for Book Arts in Chicago, IL. In 2013, he received an MFA in Painting + Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he taught both lithography and relief printmaking. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe including the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (Virginia Beach, VA), the Closet (Chicago, IL) and FRED (London, UK). While still maintaining a rigorous studio practice, in 2014 the artist made a decision to stop showing his work in order to pursue other interests outside of the art world. This will be his first exhibition of new work in almost 5 years. He both lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.