Early Years1960's1970s1980s1990 - Present

Robert Barnes: Tribute to an American Original

It may be that the career of American artist Robert Myrrden Barnes (b. 1934) began in the Windy City Boxing Club on the South Side of Chicago in 1951. A real Chicago pug, Barnes literally fought his way to the top of the flyweight division, winning the golden gloves before he was seventeen. Although this title marked both the beginning and end of his boxing career, Barnes retained those characteristics of a boxer which continue to set him apart in the slightly more gentile art world: a mastery and gracefulness of form, an undeviating combative spirit, and a stubborn sense of individuality.

Barnes has always occupied his own place outside the mainstream of contemporary art even though his art neither strays from the most conventional media—pigment on a flat support—nor the most conventional subject matter—narrative art. Nevertheless, his own idiomatic manner of figuration withina narrative structure inspired by the stream-of-conscious prose of Edouard Dujardin and James Joyce has confounded the attempts of critics to categorizeBarnes’s art: he was not a member of the Chicago “Monster Roster” and is not an “imagist”; he is neither an abstract painter nor a realist painter; likewise Barnes is not a social-realist, a political activist, an ethnically or sexually marginalized “radical,” and he is definitely not postmodern.

This web site is designed to give an overview of Barnes’s career and his extraordinary body of work from 1956 to the present.

Michael Rooks

Barnes in the "Silver Streak", photo circa 1971