Jamel Robinson, UNFETTERED, Established Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, 2020

The New York art world has commenced to reopen and the first exhibition I went to see in person was UNFETTERED, a solo show by Jamel Robinson. On view at Established Gallery located a few blocks from the Barclays Center, this exhibition is Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn gallery. Founded by artist and sound designer Greg Griffith in 2019, Johnny Thornton joined as director shortly after. Robinson, who is based in Harlem, met the founder of Established Gallery through friends, and while the exhibition’s initial scheduled opening date was derailed, sales which coincide with raising money for The Food Bank for New York City, are happening! So far they’ve raised over $1000 for this service that helps so many, as twenty percent of sales go to The Food Bank.

Jamel Robinson, As Far As The Eye Can Sea, 1,2,3, Mixed media on watercolor paper, 2019

In the midst of protests that happened just weeks prior, the gallery and exhibition function as a visual conduit of sorts as the abstract paintings in UNFETTERED are soothing to the eye. Looking towards spirituality as well as art history, the artist uses expressively colorful marks on canvas and paper, working quickly and intuitively. While currently immobilized in their current state, the paint dances across the surface emulating movement in a flurry of colors and bodily gestures —does the hand follow the body or does the body follow the hand? Having followed Robinson’s career for many years, the strokes and steps are familiar yet different. Witnessed after several months of not being able to view art in person, at a venue I had never been to before but felt delighted to enter, mask and hand sanitizer in tow. For most of the COVID-19 shutdown, I’d yet to travel on the subway, started riding Citibike and walked where my stride would allow. In this instance, the gallery was a short distance from where I happen to be staying in Boerum Hill. 

Installation view, UNFETTERED, Established Gallery, 2020

With titles such as Love Divine (2019), Abide (2019), and Take Me Home (2019), Robinson makes abstract paintings that communicate with the heart and mind alike. Works in this particular exhibition that resonated and piqued a unique level of intrigue, contain collage elements only seen up close. On the surface, yet technically underneath several layers of paint, are embedded collage scores, musical compositions that were necessary for the artist to bring these works to life. It’s as if the painting should sing metaphorically, but in some cases also literally, even in silence. As with most painting, this work translates through digital media, but is ideally viewed in person, as there are so many nuanced details that could easily be lost or misinterpreted. 

Jamel Robinson, Promise, Mixed media on canvas, 2019

A few of the works are rooted in what could be construed as spiral or labyrinth compositions. What better way is there to traverse the current topsy-turvy situation that we are in, then through the portals that Jamel Robinson makes. This body of work was made prior to the pandemic, and after three months of not being able to visit galleries is a tool for healthy escapism. In the heat of summer, Established Gallery is one that for many may be off the beaten path, or just where it’s meant to be, on Sixth Avenue, not far from the shade of Prospect Park, or for sneaker-heads, Kith. While the art world has paused or been restricted to online venues, the reopening of galleries by appointment only, offer the opportunity to view art in person once again!

Safety first! Jamel Robinson, Here I Am, detail

UNFETTERED will be by appointment only at Est. Gallery through August 23th. The artist will be present for public hours on Thursday July 29 and Saturday August 1, from 5pm until 8pm. All COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place at the gallery at all times to ensure everyone’s safety including mask requirements and limited capacity entry. Visit them on Instagram @established_gallery_

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Katy Diamond Hamer is an art writer, lecturer and social media maven and founder of Eyes Towards the Dove. Her focus is on contemporary art and culture. For more of her work visit www.katyhamer.com and on Instagram, @katyhamer