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Walter Robinson - Escape to Adventure at Charlie James Gallery


June 2022


Charlie James Gallery

JUNE 11 - JULY 16, 2022

During my long career as a conman and pirate, I maintained a peculiar kind of honesty. Boasting an ice-cold nerve that verged on lunacy, I scorned to lie my way out of trouble. When a suspicious customs official noticed an irregularity on my cargo manifest, I simply picked him up by the front of his shirt and threw him over the side.

I managed to talk the owners of a one-masted schooner into giving me command. Explanation for their assent is a little hazy. I had no papers, and my description had been published. There aren’t that many one-eared red-headed men around. The owners were damned fools.

Running guns to island insurgents was very profitable. For a few rusty muskets I was able to load the ship with oranges and lemons, coconuts, hogs and women. One night, we had a bit of trouble. The guide disappeared. “I’ll tell you where the bastard is!” laughed the female swashbuckler. “In the belly of a shark, where he belongs!” A couple of dorsal fins had been following the ship. They weren’t there now.

I decided to get drunk. My skin felt icy cold yet sweat poured from my face. I grabbed a bottle of rye and poured myself a tumblerful. I drank it down without stopping. It didn’t do any good.

Then a sort of brightness fell upon me, and looking up, I found the moon had risen and was silvering the mizzen-top, and almost at the same time the voice of the lookout shouted, “Land ho!” The tropical water was green and clear as we cut through it towards the narrow beach, spray from the rolling waves spilling over the deck.

It was hot and humid, with a smell of sunbaked sand and rain-soaked vegetation. I climbed over a low ridge and saw nothing in front of me but clouds, blanketing the hidden valley below. The sun was going down fast. As I edged around a blind corner on the narrow trail, I found myself face to face with a score of native women, dressed in brightly colored costumes and at least six feet tall. Each carried a steel-tipped spear pointed straight at me.

The tallest Amazon warrior approached slowly, teeth gleaming and dark eyes flashing. She wore a colorful lava-lava which left the upper part of her body bare. Blue-black hair spilled across her shoulders, and a golden amulet on a thick chain hung from her neck.

“You belong to the volcano god now,” she insisted.

A human heart is covered by only two inches of flesh, I thought. Light gleamed on the spear’s point as she thrust it at me in a lightning move. I threw myself back, but the blade caught my left shoulder. The gash reached down to my elbow, and soon my shirt was sticky with blood.

I lunged for the dense undergrowth in a last desperate effort. A colorful tangle of tropical beauty, it was marked by huge tropical trees and a wild profusion of flowers. Raucously hued birds flitted overhead, their strange cries splitting the air.

Then the touch of cold metal sent agonizing pain down my spine and across my shoulders. Slowly sinking to my knees, I coughed blood. Before falling into darkness, I heard my pursuers chanting. “Kill! Kill!”

-- New York, May 17, 2022

Walter Robinson (b. 1950, Wilmington, DE) is a New York painter and art writer. He began exhibiting at Metro Pictures in 1982, and more recently has shown his paintings at Jeffrey Deitch, Air de Paris, Galerie Sébastien Bertrand in Geneva, and Galleria Mazzoli in Modena, among others. In 2019 Charlie James Gallery presented an exhibition of his “Shirt Paintings.” In 2017 his work was included in “Fast Forward: Work from the 1980s” at the Whitney Museum. Galleria Mazzoli published a 500-page monograph on his work by Richard Milazzo, titled “A Kiss before Dying.” Walter’s work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) New York. Over a long career as an art critic, Robinson served as founding editor of Art-Rite (1973-1977), art editor of the East Village Eye (1983-1985), and founding editor of Artnet Magazine (1996-2012).

Artist Instagram: @walterrobinsonstudio

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