It’s not too often that a book is as good as a show. The Walter Robinson: Paintings and Other Indulgences exhibition was on view at University Galleries from October until December 2014.  If you missed it, then the next best thing is to check out the book that was recently published by University Galleries.

It’s a hardcover book, which is most certainly a lost art itself these days, that has over 200 color images of Robinson’s work from 1979–2014 along with essays by University Galleries Director Barry Blinderman, Illinois State University Art History Professor Vanessa Meikle Schulman, and writers Glenn O’Brien and Charles F. Stuckey. The book was designed by School of Art graphic design major and B.F.A. student Andrew Bybee.

“There were 94 paintings in the show, but the book contains 250 images, 200 of which are of individual paintings,” said Blinderman.  “Being that this is a retrospective of a 65-year-old artist, I wanted the book to be more than a record of an exhibition, but a lasting testament to the power and merit of Walter’s work—to carry the work beyond the boundaries of the show, to feature more paintings than we could fit in our space.

“I’ve admired Walter’s work for years, so this book was truly a project that came from the heart. Given that there was so much artwork to cover—created over a period of 35 years—Andrew and I were determined to pack in as much as possible without allowing the design to look overcrowded. The illustrated chronology at the back of the book was a particular challenge, as we had to fit 100 images from Walter’s life and work, plus text explanations—into five pages!”

Having a student substantially involved in a project of this magnitude is quite impressive. It is interesting to hear Bybee’s description of how the book all came together:

“In making the book, our earliest design problems revolved around the construction of the page. Since Robinson’s paintings are about insatiable consumption and indulgence, and since we wanted the book to be more monograph than catalog, we strove for a maximal inclusion of images. We considered image quantity, the serial nature of his work, the dimensions of his paintings, installation arrangements used for the show, and our four essays. This informed our page size and helped me to devise a flexible grid that allowed us to organize the content with creativity and consistency.

“Robinson takes a serial approach to painting; he hones in on a specific topic, whether it be pulp, portraits, or food, and then he moves on to the next thing. This really dictated the pacing of the book, and it allowed us to organize it both chronologically and topically. The four essays became an important pacing tool, helping us to separate the series and provide a rest from the bombardment of imagery.”

The book is overall very impressive with the outstanding vivid color prints of Robinson’s paintings. You get a real sense of his extensive life’s work.

In the first month of its publication, the monograph has already garnered coverage in three online art journals and in other news coverage:

Artcritical essay by Glenn O’Brien: “The Balthus of Swingers?”

Artforum review by Michelle Grabner

Book shelvesThe Brooklyn Rail: Walter Robinson With Phong Bui

The Pantagraph: “Robinson’s art takes ‘novel’ approach”

New York Observer: “14 Things to Do in New York’s Art World Before November 6”

New York Observer: “Walter Robinson and Anthony H-G: 2 Art World Titans Over Drinks and Books at Max Fish”

Artnet: “David Ebony interviews artist and Editor Walter Robinson on his parallel lives”

Illinois Arts Council, an anonymous donor, and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation funded the book. It is available for purchase at University Galleries along with numerous other exhibition publications.