Reflections of a Colorist

The use of or lack of color is the foundation of most artwork.  Color draws upon memories and emotions.  It can make a grand or simple statement, or just be pleasing to the eye.  Washingtonian Robert Kent Wilson has brought his idea of color to the island of Manhattan with Pixel by Pixel, currently showing at Raandesk Gallery until April 16.  Pixel by Pixel marks the culmination of a decade of Robert’s work.  “I don’t know if people are really going to get it,” Robert comments when asked what he would want the audience to take away from the exhibition. 

“This is ten years of mental snapshots that I have articulated in larger form.  I see them as little scenes, little vignettes that one person has captured.  Sometimes it’s like focusing on a little bit of color.  Other times it’s focusing on a scene and taking this one little thing that’s going on there that most people would never look at.  So it’s kind of like I’m a photographer capturing things and putting it out there.”

Robert Kent Wilson is a native of D.C., but one would be hard pressed to find political statements in his work.  “It has caused me to not focus on politics in my art,” Robert remarks about living in our nation’s capital.  “I choose to focus on what I consider to be positive artwork,” he adds.  “Usually my messages are more social than political statements.  I like more positive influences; I think it makes a big difference.”

Although his political views can be seen in his work, Robert Kent Wilson does not beat the viewer over the head with highly wrought displays of political opinions.  Instead, his beliefs deepen the depth of each piece.   “My work always has a statement, but is the statement shocking?  My meanings are how people respond to color and how people respond to composition,” Robert affirms. 



A perfect example of a colorful hidden statement in Robert Kent Wilson’s artwork is #05 (pictured on the left), an awe inspiring piece that blends multi-hues of blue, green and hints of brown creating harmonious balance on canvas.  #05 is Robert’s homage to the shore, a location that has been a constant muse for artists since the beginning of time.  Looking at piece I got lost in the colors; they seemed endless, similar to the feelings I receive when I stare at the ocean, infinite and hopeful.  I wanted to dive into the canvas and float with the tides as they crashed against the shore.

 Their America (not shown in the exhibition) is another example of how the use of color and subtlety create a powerful image of beauty.  Upon first glance, the piece seems to be a commentary about America’s roots.  The rustic reds blended in the cowboy’s faces illustrate people that are of the land; however as Robert pointed out when we spoke, art is subjective.  The subtle statement waiting to be discovered in this work is about homosexuality, but unless the viewer was actually looking for the statement, they may not find it.  Then again, the statement is whatever the viewer wants it to be.  Robert prefers when the audience is able to enjoy his art by finding the element that makes them personally connect with a piece.

One of the reasons I believe it is easy for anyone, regardless of their knowledge of art, to connect with Robert Kent Wilson’s body of work is his focus on an element he calls “discarded stimuli.”  “Things always aren’t what they appear to be,” he states, “There’s more than what is put right in front of your face, and often times there’s something more interesting going on when people are put off guard.  My original inspiration for disregarded stimuli is the road trips my father, brothers and I would take growing up.  Everyone else would be sleep, except I couldn’t sleep, so as the car drove down the road I’d take pictures of the countryside and the people, analyzing a girl or boy in the backseat of a car passing by.  They were all momentary but there was something about them that stuck.”

Robert Kent Wilson took those moments and other experiences (as he also admitted as child he felt put to the side) and created imagery where disregarded flashes in time would live in vivid splashes of color.  In fact, his use of color is captivating and exquisite and is another reason why his work would appeal to the public.  The microcosms he uses to explain the larger story are well selected and along with his use of mix media tell a story that is even more revealing then the bigger picture.  Although there is always more than meets the eye with his work, one can simply enjoy the beauty of color, even if the colors are black and white. 

To learn more about Robert Kent Wilson visit or

Photos:  Courtesy of Raandesk Gallery

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