Talk host, author and journalist Rob Redding is also a New York-based artist who makes monochromatic look magnificent on every canvas he touches – and clothes too. He blends black and white acrylic paints making them look like oil paintings. In a world full of color, he says he is determined to make mono enthralling and a liberating tool for black people.
His new book of art and personal story entitled SMEARED in January quickly shot up to No. 1 on Amazon in two different categories. The tell-all book which details a new style of painting called “Constructive Expressionism” gives insight on how he uses his art to dialog about anti-black racism and the death of his first boyfriend Michael.
Rob says that Michael, who died just before his 25th birthday, didn’t even like art but remarked about how much he loved a tryptic he created the same night he ended his life. Ever since that day Rob tells Consciousness Magazine that he has been able to turn his “pain into paintings.”
Black Star News, agreed, writing: “Redding tells his powerful personal story as he introduces a highly original and new style of painting called “Constructive Expressionism.”
Rob sat down with Consciousness Magazine and discussed how he uses his art to tackle anti-black racism and Michael’s death.
Consciousness Magazine: Tell us about Darkness?
Rob Redding: The complete name is “The Suicidal Spirit of Darkness” (Darkness) because it was the thing that I saw behind Michael before he took his life. It was illuminated with the flash of the gun and that is the only way I could see it. It hung around for a few years until I told it to leave after my car accident in 2021. It was never hostile until I asked it to leave. It just kind of kept me company and was a reminder of what happened.
Consciousness Magazine: Why is so much of your work heavy like Darkness with long intricate titles?
Rob: All art is political and I think it is important with the figurative abstractionism movement that I call “Constructive Expressionism” to be very clear with what the viewer is seeing. I do not take a modernist view. I think it is important to have a dialogue about the work. The dialog will never replace the work but it is very important to the work.
Consciousness Magazine: How does your art deal with anti-black racism?
Rob: I use my years as a talk show host, journalist and author to approach themes about blackness and queerness. Darkness is just one example of the intersection between the two. The thought behind black figures in popular culture is always negative. This negativity is confronted with works like Black Power: Unapologetically Militant and The Racist which places the viewer in confrontation with a white supremacist.
Consciousness Magazine: That sounds racy. How is the art world receiving the work?
Rob: I have one piece that’s about 120 X 64 inches which is at the intersection of blackness and queerness. It is of a big black penis squirting out semen in the shape of the African continent. I was told by the owner at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York that it was too “explosive” to exhibit.
This is in the same LGBTQ center that has Keith Haring’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ Bathroom Mural in its building. The mural features numerous penises’ squirting semen. What I took away from that exchange is that it is okay for a person like Haring who is known for his love of black and Latino men to have a voice on these issues but not a black man. A black man can’t talk about how he is objectified by whites for his big penis? A black man can’t relate his own penis to the birthing of the entire world and take some agency in this world of objectification?
Black Power Unapologetically Militant
And sadly he is not the only person who has said no to themes of blackness and queerness as it relates to my work. I once belonged to Noho M55 Gallery, which is also in New York, where a white woman who co-runs the gallery refused to entitle my first solo show in the city “BBC”, an acronym I used for Big Black Canvas. I was using it as a play on words with penis as an analogy: to how art does not matter to the art world unless it is big. I fought her and won but I had to fight her nonetheless.
The point is, I will not let anyone dictate to me that my work will not be seen. This is why I am giving it to Consciousness Magazine as an exclusive.
Consciousness Magazine: Who are some of your influences?
Rob: I love the work of a typical artist like Jackson Pollock. My work starts out like his but ends in a very different direction. Love Joyce Pensato and Kara Walker too. I, however, am also very influenced by fashion. I have loved fashion ever since I was little. I was a fat kid so modeling was not an option. Still, when I create a work I am always thinking of the way boys will look in what I paint or draw. I often have my works placed on merchandise and modeled by my friend Camillo Majerczyk.
Consciousness Magazine: Where can people see your work?
Rob: I have several shows coming up in Manhattan. I will have art in the Pratt Manhattan Gallery art show entitled “There is a Certain Slant of Light,” which runs June 21- September 6, 2023. The show opens Tuesday night, June 20 from 6-8pm. People can also find my work at SmearPainting.com and @smearpainting on Instagram.
Last modified: July 3, 2023