For more than a decade, Dario Robleto has been composing a love song to America, an extended meditation on longing and loss, spirituality and healing. Both elegiac and redemptive, his sculptures and assemblages reflect an engagement with an impressive range of sources, from popular music and military history to the natural sciences and forgotten craft traditions. Music, especially, guides Robleto’s creative processes. He compares his methods to those of a DJ, digging through the dusty record bins of history, searching for the perfect moment, memory, or material—one to sample, splice, or mix with others to create something that is indeed the sum of its parts, but also much more.
Robleto’s project is part memorial, part rescue mission: it seeks to resuscitate the material wreckage of our shared past, mixing and transforming historically-loaded artifacts and elements into regenerative works that reveal the fragments of hope embedded within. Fashioned from a lengthy roster of arcane and sometimes unbelievable materials— including melted and pulverized vinyl records, shrapnel and bullets excavated from battlefields, medicinal herbs and homebrewed tonics, and even prehistoric fossils and the dust of human bones—these works speak volumes about history and nostalgia, even as they address concerns for the present condition of our world and its future.
Alloy of Love surveys ten years of work by Dario Robleto, from his first investigations of vintage record albums as embodiments of emotions to more recent explorations of the impact of war on the domestic sphere. Early works witness Robleto improving found objects by investing them with new, hidden meanings, as in Sometimes Billie Is All That Holds Me Together, a set of buttons crafted from melted Billie Holiday records and used to impart new life to articles of thrift-store clothing. In recent years Robleto has turned his attention to darker themes of war and destruction, using the techniques of alchemists and apothecaries to transform the materials of war into healing remedies. New works, like No One Has a Monopoly Over Sorrow, reclaim the mourning arts of past eras—the love letters, the hair wreaths, the wax-preserved flowers—to make ameliorative gestures that recognize the survival of the past in objects and the poetic potential of materials.
Dario Robleto: Alloy of Love is organized by the Tang Museum; the Frye art Museum, Seattle, Washington; and guest curator Elizabeth Dunbar.
Published: September 27th 2008