‘Robert Peterson: When You See Them, You See Me’ to Open at Claire Oliver Gallery




Robert Peterson, American Muscle, 2022, oil on canvas, diptych 60×80 in. Image courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery

Claire Oliver Gallery is pleased to announce When You See Them, You See Me, the debut solo exhibition by artist Robert Peterson. Featuring 13 life-scale oil on canvas figurative paintings, Peterson aims to capture time through his art, highlighting Black family life as joyous, loving, and balanced. So often Black men and women are unfairly stereotyped, and fractured family dynamics are what the media and popular culture choose to highlight. Peterson looks at his work as an opportunity to flip the narrative and shed light on the strength, resilience, and gentleness of the Black community that is hardly ever showcased.

“This exhibition is extremely personal to me as it showcases the balance that I have within my own life as a husband and a father, as a Black man,” states Peterson. “I create my work with the idea of correcting the historical record. In 500 years, I want viewers to see the normalcy, peace, and harmony with my subjects – Black people, and Black families in particular, that contrast with the often negative popular narrative.  I want my subjects to get the chance to live forever through my work.”

Robert Peterson, Sunday Kind of Love, 2022, oil on canvas, 54×114 in. Image courtesy Claire Oliver Gallery

Peterson’s works explore the mundane as a radical act of visibility for Black Americans, honing his work to focus on the Black family and drawing from his own experiences. Peterson’s monumental oil on canvas paintings depict Black individuals as both ordinary and regal, replacing iconographic regalia with the quotidian, and reframing embellished “crowns” with du-rags and jeans. His works are homages to the quiet heroism of daily life and challenge the politicized gaze upon Black people. His figures’ skin tones are rendered in rich polychrome: a joyous and exuberant expression of love of Black skin.

In the past decade, Peterson has evolved from his self-taught origins to exhibiting his works in celebrated galleries and art fairs in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. In 2016, he was the first Black artist selected “Artist of the Year for Southwestern Oklahoma” by the Oklahoma Arts Council. The following year, he became the Spectrum Spotlight Artist of the Year during Miami’s Art Basel.

(L) Robert Peterson, Love is Love, 2022, oil on canvas, 60×60 in.; (R) Robert Peterson, Don’t Touch My Hair, 2022, oil on canvas, 36×24 in. Images courtesy Claire Oliver Gallery

Robert Peterson (b. 1981) is a contemporary artist specializing in figurative painting with a concentration on portraiture. Currently living and working in Lawton, Oklahoma. Peterson is quickly rising as one of this country’s most celebrated emerging artists. He aims to create beautiful works of art that reflect a softer side of Black people yet still shows their strength and resilience, something that he believes is not seen and exhibited enough throughout galleries and museums.

Claire Oliver Gallery is located in Central Harlem in a four-story brownstone. For 30 years, Claire Oliver Gallery has showcased and celebrated artwork, with a focus on work by women and people of color, which transcends and challenges the traditional art historical canon. Our forward-thinking program and exclusive commitment to the primary market allows for an intensive focus that has nurtured and grown the careers of our artists. Many of the gallery’s artists have been included in The Venice Biennale, The Whitney Biennial, and biennales in Sydney, Pittsburgh, and Lyon and have exhibited works in major international museums including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, Center Georges Pompidou, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art amongst others. Claire Oliver Gallery artists are included in the permanent collections of many important museums worldwide including The Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Tate Britain, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The State Hermitage Museum, MoMA, and the Museum of Arts and Design amongst many others. Claire Oliver Gallery held the first American exhibition for the Russian collaborative AES+F, whose work went on to twice represent Russia in the Russian pavilion of the Venice Biennale. Gallery artists have received prestigious fellowships including Fulbright, Guggenheim, USArtist, and National Endowment for the Arts.

Robert Peterson: When You See Them, You See Me will be on view from September 9 to November 5, 2022 at Claire Oliver Gallery, 2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, between 134th/135th Streets, NYC. A reception will be held on Friday, September 9th from 5:00 ~ 9:00pm, with a festive vernissage event celebrating the opening of the Artist’s debut solo exhibition.

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