It was the self-taught, multidisciplinary contemporary artist’s first solo exhibition in The Netherlands with his series, The Future is Old. The artist’s name stuck with me – not only because I was expecting my own kid – but because of how his view on the youth of today has influenced his work, emanating struggles in a messy world. Yet, it sparks hope for a brighter future.
The Kid’s desire to shine a spotlight on subjects that might make us uncomfortable is one of great importance. The era we live in demands that each of us consistently challenges our biases, privileges, and the information we consume through platforms which are growing in number at a dangerous rate.
I bought a print of his piece, I saw the sun begin to dim, and I remember wondering if the depiction of Disney’s beloved Pinocchio drowning might one day traumatise my future child. I couldn’t help but be struck with the work. Kid explains that the piece is inspired by the contradiction in the classic coming-of-age story that is Pinocchio. The level of punishment he receives versus his transgressions is viciously outweighed. The rest of the piece shows an exhausted young man weighed down by the United States flag draped over his shoulders. It represents the pressures and disproportionate punishments young people – particularly those in ethnic minorities – face today.
This particular exhibition in Robin Kid’s native country was inspired by the Charlottesville riots of 2017. White supremacists attacked civil rights protestors who fought for the removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee, an historical leading figure of the Confederates and a defender of slavery.
A clash between the future and the past, evoking memories while serving as a warning for what lies ahead — history is doomed to repeat if we don’t fight against it. Through the use of youthful portraits, it feels both comforting and familiar, but the closer you get the more uncomfortable you feel as you spot the flaws on the surface.
I am a firm believer in the subjectivity of art. However, I am most drawn to those who employ traditional techniques in a way that not only leaves you in awe of their skill but also compels you to immerse yourself in their views of the world and how it impacts your own sphere of comfort. The hyper-realism with which he creates his paintings and sculptures ensures you are truly immersed in the story he is telling. It forces you to question the realities so many face in the world, with the underlying hope that in opening our minds we might elicit a more empathetic world where we stand up and pay attention to these difficult realities.
In addition to his work, he is an activist committed to causes which defend human rights across the world. This includes support for the International Non Governmental Organisation Human Rights Watch, which fights social discrimination and inhumane justice systems; a passion for which is at the core of every piece of The Kid’s art.
It is my hope that my little girl grows up with a similar passion for a world not seen through rose-tinted glasses, but with an honest view and a desire to work towards something better for young generations.