I think that Robert made enormous progress during the time I worked with him. As I've mentioned before, when we started our dialogue he was making extremely traditional work, and didn't seem to understand how it functioned in relationship to contemporary art or current critical dialogues. But because he was so open to critical information, and so willing to consider ways of looking at his work that he hadn't considered before, the paintings he made at the end of the session were far more sophisticated than anyhting I could have imagined. I was particularly impressed by the painting of a man shearing a sheep: I thought that he found a way to make an allegorical painting (something he is clearly drawn to, for whatever reason) but allow it to have an ambiguity and openness of interpretation that made the experience of looking at it somewhat strange: while my first thought was that it was traditional allegory, the elements he chose to include could in fact have been an unusual but actually experienced situation. It alowed for experiences of uncertainty, destabilization, open-endedness, ambiguity, I might even say uncanniness, that seemed to much more succesfully speak to contemporary experience than straightforward, traditional allegory ever could. And that actually made me more willing to also engage with it as a traditional, psycho-sexual allegory. The painting of the woman falling onto/floating above a tarmac was, for me, less succesful, primarily because its artifice was so obvious that it didn't allow for nearly as broad a range of interpretations as his other painting. Nevertheless, it was a step forward in relationship to the first allegorical studies he produced. Juxtaposed with the painting of the man shearing a sheep, it set up a narrative of traditional gender representation that Robert didn't intend. We had a long discussion about that, along with what I thought were the weaknesses of the second compared to the first painting. He very willingly participated in the discussion, and engaged in a very positive way. He didn't become defensive at all, and seemed to get a lot from our dialogue. I also had some critical things to say about the new paintings he has planned, and again he was extremely open to the discussion. Robert's impressive productivity and willingness to enage in critical dialogue, along with his expanding knowledge of contemporary art and critical discourse, has accelerated his growth as an artist. He is now working at a graduate level. He was a pleasure to work with.
Hard not to be happy with this.