As an African American artist, Robert Hodge’s work considers what makes an artist a Master? Is it the price of the work, the brush strokes, the prestige and how much time passed to be considered one? Delving deeply into this controversial conflict between history and race, Hodge’s work both questions, and pays tribute to, the Old Masters whose work that spoke on African American life, and those who depicted blacks in paintings, as main characters and even servants. Using a technique that ‘samples’ from various contexts, histories, music and art, Hodge distinguishes the connection between the European Old Masters and the ‘New Black’.
Robert Hodge studied at Atlanta College of Art and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His solo exhibitions include: Word is Bond and A Memory Worth Fighting For at PEVETO Gallery, Houston, Texas, Promise You Will Sing About Me, Office at Uptown Gallery Space, Memphis, Tennessee, Living in the Past Is My Future, South Dallas Cultural Center and Niko Hapo Bodo, Khon’s, Houston, Texas. He has also shown in numerous group shows, including those at: Art League Houston, Texas Southern University Museum, New Gallery of Modern Art, New Carolina, and TBH Center, Houston, Texas. He has also been awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist Grant, Houston Arts Alliance Established Artist Grant and an Idea Fund Grant awarded by the Andy Warhol Foundation, among others.
What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?
I was really interested in the works considered to be” master paintings” are how to re- appropriate them to my current situations and modernize them while keeping integrity and having a bit of fun. The Young Master’s program mission really was parallel with my practice of respecting the old master’s work such as technique and composition and respecting the lineage of great paintings and images but also bringing in a conceptual capacity to the table. My work is strongly influenced by hip hop and one of the major components of the music is the art of sampling which I utilize when I can.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
My work like myself constantly grows and adopts but what remains constant is the cornerstones of history, music and self realization of me and my place in this world. Im a interdisciplinary artist and I want to communicate my ideas in the best disciplinary that conveys that. Im realizing and accepting Im a product of Hip Hop and I want to always have that present in my work and keep these amazing voices resonating around me. My work has become an investigation of words, sounds and the impact of hip hop culture on the world.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
I’m inspired by so many artists but the ones I think I’m directly linked to with art lineage is Robert Rauschenberg, Romare Bearden, Ratclifee Bailey, John Biggers, Theaster Gates, Rick Lowe, David Hammons, and Mark Bradford. The other main inspiration comes from the city, the urban decay and the everyday people I encounter.
Can you tell us something about your background?
Art has always played a major role in my existence even when I tried to abandon it. I grew up in Houston , Texas to a mother who was an educator and a father who was a attorney. Supporting young artist can be difficult when you don’t the inner workings of how to progress them into the professional landscape so becoming an artist wasn’t always encouraged. Even at a early age I knew i wanted to have some engagement with art and my community and this was way before the term “social practice”. Life kept art surrounding me until i firmly decided not to fight it and embrace all that can along it and since then I have been creating and evolving.
What inspired you to become an artist?
It choose me, maybe the feeling I had when I made my first drawings and the reaction from my peers and the teacher. Later came the empowerment to voice my thoughts, to communicate with people all over the word leaving interpretation to them. The power and magic of making something out of nothing and transforming unwanted materials into beautiful objects that have a life of possibility.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I have a great love for music, so def a music producer.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I really have never looked back at the great things that happen and say wow look at that but maybe so far my Skowhegan School of painting and sculpture experience. The other artist I connected with and the program itself was amazing and I grew leaps and bounds.
What are your plans for the future?
To stay alive.