Bob Trotman, a self taught artist, is currently living and working in his studio in western North Carolina. Working mostly with wood, Trotman’s work projects an ideological environment that is overwhelmed by power and privilege. The concepts stemming from this idea are the foundation for his solo show, Business as Usual, currently on display at the Visual Arts Center in Richmond, VA.
Before entering Trotman’s exhibition, one is presented with a video recording of the artist in his studio and wooden maquettes of pieces in the show. Upon entrance, visitors are greeted with a blend of stationary wooden figures alongside kinetic sculptures in each section of the gallery. Basswood, tempera, casein wax, and audio are just a few of the many mediums Trotman has accumulated into one space. “Deskman”, a wooden sculpture, describes an oversized male lying diagonally across what appears to be an office room table, with two artificial potted plants on each side. Directly across the room is the piece “ Trumpeter”, a topless male sculpture with the instrument as the upper body, and an audio of a muffled speech pouring out.
Immediately after walking into the gallery room and adjusting to the multiplicity of sounds, the space feels occupied. The sound of murmurs and clacking - reminiscent to dress shoes walking- a shuffling crowd, all force you to feel as though you’re walking into a discombobulated office space. The mood is altered depending on how crowded the room is with viewers: there’s a difference between the artificial sound of the “crowd” and a live group of people, allowing the setting to become more overwhelming for the viewer. Though when the only sound is coming from the work itself, the space becomes mind numbing and evokes more of a monotonous emotion. Specifically with “Trumpeter”, the speech loses its connotation as words being spoken, and are so muffled that it feels less like an understandable language and more of a pattern of sound. The voice is demanding, yet obscure. This idea reinforces Trotman’s portrayal of the business world as being cyclical, and how many aspects of that world drown out any opposing force. The figure becomes less of a human and more of archetype of a specific race and class structure: the white upper middle class man.
Considering all factors of the exhibition, the question of whether there is a disconnect between Trotman’s world, and the world his work portrays comes into play. The artist mentions, in the video displayed outside, that he doesn’t consider his work to be too far outside the world of his own. Though without prior knowledge of his father’s profession, that may be a little more difficult to believe. The exhibition then becomes less about his experiences as the son of a banker, and more of a critique on the common capitalist normality that is embedded in our society.
If you haven't had the chance to visit Bob Trotman's exhibition, you still have some time! The show is up until October 31.
See more of Trotman's work at BobTrotman.com