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A Look Back Through Our Archives, From 1993 to 2017

PETER ROBINSONUntitled, 1996, oil stick on crate, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

AAP 16: “Peter Robinson’s Strategic Plan,” by Robert Leonard

In the mid-1990s, Peter Robinson caught the attention of curators and collectors alike in New Zealand. One of the reasons, curator Robert Leonard explained, was Robinson’s explorations of his Māori heritage, which coincided with the country’s debates on the return of lands and economic rights that had been forcibly taken from indigenous peoples under British colonial rule. In an Essay published in 1997, Leonard explored the idea of Māoris existing in a “double bind”—disempowered yet idealized—and observed how, in that context, Robinson’s creative approach differed radically from more commercialized forms of Māori art. For example, in an untitled oilstick-on-wooden-crate work from 1996, Robinson made a naively painted checkerboard composition of black and white squares that resemble bargain sale signs, with scrawled declarations such as, “Blacks Ltd. We Pay For Your Interest,” “Buy Now, Pay Later” and “Quiet Island Retreat. Friendly Atmosphere.” Leonard posited, “These works seem to comment at once on the economic, political and cultural plight of Māori through history and the current market success enjoyed by contemporary Māori artists, for whom cultural values are stock-in-trade.” EWN


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