Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, USA
Robert SCHWAN is a full artist, he makes awesome videos, powerful collages, great sculpture, and he is a musician and music producer. He is the kind of artist you find only in LA!
“Robert Schwan, a new kind of Librettist” by Beatrice Chassepot
Is it possible to live many lives in one? Good news, the answer is a big YES! The artist Robert Schwan is the incarnation of it. Robert Schwan has already behind him many lives during which he has expressed himself through different mediums. I know at least two, Music and Culinary art. Nowadays he naturally goes to the most obvious medium for what he has to express, the Visual Arts.
At HiE gallery he has shown a remarkable body of works made of Collages of photographs, Videos and Sculpture. His collages are made of pieces of photographs from magazines he has collected for years. The imagery is mainly from religious, political and environmental topics, the most iconic moments of the world political and social history.
The composition of Robert’s iconic images could have been a cliché kind if made with paint but the artist uses real image from the real life to which he injects other kind of images. The meaning of those images from the “real world” is completely distorted and brought to another level.
He creates a strange dialog between two imageries, like those two worlds that look at each other suspiciously. For some reasons, it reminds me the atmosphere of great Grand Operas when it’s a little caricatured but so moving because it touches you to the heart.
In the most lyrical collage “Junkyard angel”. The angel is looking at the trash and one can easily imagine he says “poor world, what are we gonna do about you now?” with the emphasis of a Grand Opera.
When saying that it is not surprising the remarkable musician Morgan Grace Kibby has accepted to compose the original soundtrack for Robert’s video “Stained Glass”. Let’s hope the two are just at the beginning of their collaboration because this is the most singular video I’ve seen in years (last was Kerry Tribe in 2002).
We can say Robert Schwan is a new genre of librettist who picks the good images assembles and composes them, to create a new context to deliver a wonderful lyrical world.
BCh – Los Angeles, June 20th 2012
Video with Morgan Grace Kibby:“Stained Glass” by Robert Schwan + White Sea
Interview for be-Art – Los Angeles, June 25th 2012
BCh: To me with the exhibition at HiE gallery you are emerging in visual arts when you’re not exactly young beginner. Can you tell us more about your life as a multidisciplinary artist?
Robert Schwan: I came to Los Angeles as a young man, so I feel like I’ve grown up along side this city. I’ve have been involved in cafés and clubs for the past thirty years. I am a musician and write music, lyrics and short stories and have always played in bands and produced shows and events. I’ve been doing collage, sculpture and photography off and on over the years and have been included in exhibitions & private collections but ?Unexpected Consequences’ is my first one-man show. I work in different disciplines at different times when an idea possesses me and I follow it until it’s done.
Yann Perreau, director of HiE Gallery came to dinner one night and while looking at my work in the studio came upon my scrapbook. He saw the images and ideas in the scrapbook as my most complete works and said he would like to consider a show based on them. I developed the show from the seed of the scrapbooks.
The opportunity as an artist to experiment with a multiple of disciplines is more accessible than ever. With the pinpoint connectivity and integration of communication devices into our every pore, the artistic disciplines are colliding at a faster and faster rate. I am thinking of the Particle Collider or Atom Smasher searching for the “Higgs Boson” or the “God Particle”.
BCh: About your collages. Can you precisely describe how and why you choose a particular image? It sounds like you are very picky.
Robert Schwan: I have kept files of clippings for many years. I have a particular interest in endangered species and the rise and fall of icons. I use these different elements as characters to create mythologies in the form of visual narratives. Sometimes I will take my camera in search of an image I need to complete a piece. It’s like finishing a jigsaw puzzle. I put visual impact first over editorial. I always hope the story tells itself.
BCh: About the imagery. You assemble the images of war or political demonstrations with other images that have nothing to do with any current political or social context. Is it to perturbing from the original context?
Robert Schwan: There is the world at large that is reported in the media everyday. Then there is the subtext of our private lives that moves in and around the world at large. I am changing the context with a visual subtext. It is not unlike what dreams do to memories. Dreams are a collage of memory rearranged by the subconscious.
Bch: I was impressed by your video, which is also a collage. Can you describe your state of mind when you created it?
Robert Schwan: Thank you. I began the video with the idea of putting together paths, walkways and roads into a collaged journey. I pictured kind of gluing them together like my collage work. I found the film process much different and of course not so easy. My ideas changed and were most greatly influenced by a conversation I recorded that two friends were having one night over wine. Their narration informed what I shot and how Maria Biber-Ferro and I edited it from that point on. We cut and pasted the narration like a sample and played it with the visual as a cicada-like backdrop. The journey became a little story.
When I think about it, the video is the culmination of all of the disciplines I’ve been working in art, writing, music.
BCh: Can you tell us about your collaboration with the wonderful musician Morgan Grace Kibby who created a musical piece that fits perfectly to your video?
Robert Schwan: Yann put us together. He was looking for an artist to collaborate with me for my first show. He had been introduced to Morgan through her work with her own band, “White Sea” and her collaborations with M83. He had met her and knew that when she collaborated with Anthony of M83, that they started song ideas in part by sending visual images back and forth. Yann thought that she might relate to my collages and sent her images. The images did in fact resonate with Morgan. She is on tour with M83 so we had to collaborate through the ether. She did the music for the video and lyrics to one of the photos. I didn’t get them until two days before the show. She knocked me out. Having listened to her music and watched her videos I knew her work would be first class and it was. Her music gave the video a powerful subtext. A heartbeat. I look forward to more collaboration.