In a bid to reframe his talent once again, Michael Robinson is in the midst of his first gallery show in La Jolla, with an appearance scheduled for next month.
Four of Robinson’s contemporary paintings are on display at the Legends Gallery through January.
Robinson, a former journalist and musician who lives in Northern California, will be at the gallery at 1205 Prospect St. at 5 p.m. on Friday, December 2, as part of the La Jolla Art Walk’s First Friday.
One of his pieces, ‘Dance Cadaverous’, is ‘Picasso meets punk rock,’ Robinson said – a mix of Pablo Picasso’s early self-portraits and Andy Warhol’s aesthetic with a quote from a proto song -punk from 1972 by Jonathan Richman which references Picasso. .
“I Prevail” is named after Robinson’s favorite hard rock band. “Inglorious” is “Basquiat meets Tarantino,” he said — a riff on Tarantino’s film “From Dusk Till Dawn.”
The fourth track, “Ansonia Takes an Aria”, quotes lyrics by hard rock band Three Days Grace.
The show is at Legends because Robinson and his wife, both art collectors, have known Roree Mayhew, owner of Legends, for about nine years.
“We love La Jolla,” Robinson said. “We try to go there once a year” to visit and buy art.
Robinson’s art “speaks to me,” Mayhew said. “It’s something I haven’t seen in a while. It’s a bit of art brut [with] classical influences.
Mayhew said he gravitates to Robinson’s paintings with scripture on them because they “hit little cultural dots here and there that I think make a bit of sense.”
He said Robinson’s art fits well with Legends, which specializes “in whimsical art. We are a fun gallery accessible to almost anyone.
This is Robinson’s second exhibition, following a solo show in Lafayette, Contra Costa County in May.
Presenting at Legends is “a real dream come true,” Robinson said. “It was the only place I really wanted to be represented.”
Robinson took his place at the easel six years ago at a painting party, quickly realizing he was drawn to creating visual art.
“I had this jolt of electricity,” he said.
This prompted him to continue painting for the next four years under the pseudonym Ray Montenegro.
“I was in stealth mode,” Robinson said. “I wanted to get honest feedback from other artists, collectors [and] gallery owners… without it being embarrassing for them or for me.
He ditched the Montenegro persona two years ago and relaunched as… himself.
“It was just the right time,” Robinson said. “I came to a new level; I’ve had enough consistent good feedback.
Before that, Robinson had a long career as a journalist, working for outlets such as Kansas City Star and Oakland Grandstand and have his work printed in a dozen other California newspapers as well as in The New York Times and the wall street journal.
He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the 1984 Democratic National Convention in the San Francisco Examiner.
While writing, Robinson began making rock and blues music, spending several years performing and releasing four CDs.
Each stint from writer to rocker to painter has made Robinson feel closer to his father, journalist Clarence Robinson, who died about a year ago.
“My dad was probably my biggest influence in my life,” he said.
“He was a Renaissance man…he could do anything,” Robinson said. He recalled that his father learned to play the guitar and speak Russian and took on 24-hour journalism assignments.
“Since I was a kid, it felt natural to do a lot of different things,” Robinson said. “Fortunately, I’m working very hard on all of them and doing it quite well.”
The painting offers Robinson a space to explore “life’s big questions,” he said.
“I paint because there are things I want to say about the world that I cannot say in a song or… in a poem or in a short story or… in a documentary work. That’s why there’s a lot of writing [on the paintings and] many of my titles refer to something else. I try to have a sense of humor; I try to give people an experience of discovery.
To learn more about Robinson, visit michaelrobinsonart.com. ◆