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Walter Robinson, Bidlo, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 30 × 30".

Walter Robinson

University Galleries at Illinois State University

Walter Robinson, Bidlo, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 30 × 30".

As Walter Robinson’s paintings have evolved, they’ve come to serve as an uncannily accurate gauge for the American art world’s analogously shifting, and increasingly nuanced, attitudes toward consumerism and mass culture. The artist’s early-1980s works—straightforward depictions of drugstore purchases, Budweiser beer cans, a plastic My Little Pony figurine, and Robinson’s personal friends, the artists Martin Wong and Mike Bidlo and critic Carlo McCormick—feature banal subjects facilely scumbled in acrylic paint and initially registered as an ironic wink to the viewer. The portraits possessed enough verisimilitude to crosswire neo-expressionism’s value systems, thus achieving a knowing postmodern position to which much of the ’80s New York art world (in which Robinson was heavily involved as an artist and critic) aspired. Yet today, these same paintings look remarkably

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