The juxtaposition of dissimilar objects in Robert Wilbert’s art encourages the imagination to take flight. In this oil painting, for instance, one wonders about the significance of a goat and a plaster monk behind a female mannequin. The goat often represents Satan. Are the religious figure and the animal vying for the girl’s soul? But she’s a soulless mannequin. What’s the artist saying; are we missing some hidden symbolism?
As tempting as it is to read all kinds of interpretations into Wilbert’s work, perhaps the best approach is to take it at face value, for he isn’t a narrative artist.
“One of the most interesting things about Robert’s works is that there probably is no message,” says Susanne Hilberry, director of the Susanne Hilberry Gallery, which has represented Wilbert since 1997. “These things don’t specifically stand for something; they aren’t symbols.
“What he’s searching for is a meaningful form.”
Indeed, Wilbert himself has said he’s “looking for the order of things.”
Although born in Chicago, Wilbert has lived and worked in Detroit since the 1950s. For many years, he taught painting at Wayne State University and continues to teach at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC).
Hilberry has hosted solo shows devoted to Wilbert in the past, and plans to have another, either in the winter or spring of 2010. In the meantime, those interested in Wilbert’s art should contact the gallery.