Rob Tarbell: Smoke Screens Opens at Alfstad& Contemporary

Sarasota-based artist unveils a dramatically new thematic direction.

Sarasota, FL, October 20, 2015 -- Alfstad& Contemporary presents Rob Tarbell: Smoke Screens, the second show of its third season in Sarasota. Opening November 5th and running November 6 through December 4, the show features 30 mid- and large-sized portrait images created using Tarbell’s signature methodology of transferring smoke to paper.

“After experimenting, refining and honing his singular process of creating smoke screens for over a decade, Rob has taken an exciting leap forward in applying that process to subject matter,” says Sam Alfstad. “The results are different, dramatic and startlingly original.”

Using unique and unconventional methods and materials – burning plastic credit cards, photos and 35mm slides – Tarbell allows the dark, swirling wisps to rise to a paper surface suspended overhead. “It’s an ironic nod to self-help techniques of burning way sentimental things and thoughts to remove their emotional or historical burden,” he says. “I’m destroying one thing to make a new thing.”

Through trial and error, Tarbell fashioned tools and customized equipment to react to each new discovery he made. He adapted printmaking technology to transpose photographs and collage work onto a variety of surfaces – and pioneered breakthroughs in the smoke process.

By manipulating angles, distances and durations, Tarbell creates his finished images. Literally, he captures a moment in a puff of smoke.

The imagery in Rob Tarbell: Smoke Screens originated in his fascination with Crime Times, a weekly tabloid that publishes mug shots of alleged criminals from regional sources. Using the mug shots, as well as self-portraits and similar photographs of family and friends as inspiration, Tarbell’s new body of work explores themes of identity, celebrity, infamy and public presumption and perception.

The results are intimately intense portraits that simultaneously present truth and illusion by transposing photographs through the ephemeral medium of smoke. Each work combines the refinement of Tarbell’s artistic technique and control with an irrepressible spontaneous natural energy.

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