David Robbins

Born 1957 in Whitefish Bay, WI
Lives and Works in Shorewood, WI

The legs of the wooden desk by David Robbins on view in the 2014 Biennial are made of, respectively, a tree stump, the top of which has been cast in bronze, and a 15-foot-high tree adorned with cartoonlike signs pointing in all directions. Only one marker is inscribed with a legible destination: “The Renewable Wilderness Is Within.” Robbins produced the desk after a series of hiking trips with his friend and personal trainer. During these excursions the two discussed the ways that every mind comprises an allegorical wilderness—an untamed landscape of imagination and inexhaustible creative potential that awaits exploration. The Open-Air Writing Desk is a prompt by Robbins for viewers to sit down and begin the difficult but rewarding exploration of their own internal wilderness.

Accompanying the desk is a cherry bookcase designed to hold copies of Robbins’s seminal Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (2011), which organizes and details the history of, as the artist terms it, “the comedy of doing rather than saying,” expressed through actions, gestures, and objects rather than words and narratives. Alongside this is a television set that screens commercials advertising contemporary art, which Robbins produces and buys time to broadcast. Together his objects, books, and videos inhabit a space between the conceptual, sometimes arcane experimentation associated with contemporary art and an accessible, often humorous mainstream cultural form.