Blue Succulents_72x72                                                                       Robert Kushner, Blue Succulents, 72x72inches, 2014

I think that I learned to rely on concept from a very early age.  As a child, I was never very good at coloring inside the lines. I remember coloring with my second grade friend David Jackson.  David always got a lot of credit for his really cool Crayola work.  Somehow he could color with a totally even half tone AND get the edges slightly darker so that the forms looked vaguely rounded. He never ever went outside the lines. As much as I tried to emulate his technique, I invariably deposited gross blobs of color well beyond the printed boundaries.  This disturbing realization of my technical incompetence occurred some time in the mid 1950s. My mother, Dorothy Browdy Kushner, a devout Abstract Expressionist painter, reassured me that my friend displayed no meaningful creativity to his seemingly enormous skill (and by implication, I obviously did, as manifest by the expressionistic handling of my crayons). The real trick of art, she asserted, was having a creative approach.  Dare we say, a conceptual one?

Duly inspired, I asked my second grade teacher, Miss Lamb, whether I could have a “one man show.”   This was what I observed my mother and her friends hoping for from the local gallerists.   Being kind, but evidently unaware of art world conventions, she asked me what that meant?  I said that it meant that she had to take down everyone else’s artwork and put up only mine. To my surprise, Miss Lamb agreed to my request; however, my solo show could remain hanging only one day.  I was thrilled but I remember the feeling, one I still often have, that I just did not have enough work for my show!  I even remember dashing off one more Crayola version of irises in our garden. Interestingly, a subject that still inspires me today.   I have no idea what the response of my classmates might have been.  David Jackson probably found it hopelessly messy.  In retrospect, was this a case of unabashed egotism at a shockingly early onset? Probably. But it seems to have created an interesting momentum.

My mother’s dictum about originality has served me well.  At this point, I often look at art that is technically perfect and I genuinely (sometimes enviously) respect the skill involved in its execution.  But without underlying ideas and concepts the finest execution can become shallow and empty.  Art is a little odd that way.  Often the idea is so closely linked to the visual expression, that there is no real way to put this interaction into words. We can try, but ultimately, it is the work of the hand and the reaction of the eye that becomes the content of such work. Today’s armies of neo conceptualists rely on the successful translatability of their ideas into critical discourse.  But isn’t it more satisfying to encounter art where the idea only reveals itself through close scrutiny?  This visual decoding does not leave out the mind. Once the eye has perceived the concept, the mind can return to it repeatedly and expand on its implications to the viewer’s continuing satisfaction.

To me, the most interesting art is that where there is a clear, usually idiosyncratic conceptualization which then leads the artist to more acute observation of the chosen subject matter. Once I decided to concentrate on the outlines of the flower and an acceptance of the decorative (rather than trying to depict volume through shading for instance), I began to observe edges much more carefully, my drawing improved and I was led to further, more complex considerations.

Nature can be depicted as marvelous, inspirational, captivating, scintillating. As artists, we experience our world as full of wonder and meaning.  It is then up to each of us to find a paradigm that showcases our innate skills and minimizes our weaknesses.  Often this requires some fancy footwork. But ultimately most of us find a way to a successful result, a conceptualization.  Then the question becomes even more interesting.  How can we take that initial formulation and keep reinventing it to yield ever new and interesting returns?  Success in this part of the venture seems to me the sign of a true artist.

Robert Kushner



Last January, I was invited to work with master printer Bud Shark in his Hawaii studio in Holualoa on the Big Island.  I had worked there with Bud before, but this time we both wanted to something new and  different. Basing our project on some of our studio experiments in Lyons, Colorado, and on the on-going explorations that I have been pursuing in my own studio, I arrived with a box full of old papers and a mind full of ideas.  Engraved ilustrations from an 1810 book on physiognomy, old postage stamps, pages of a diary found on the street, Japanese woodblock prints, a 19th century dictionary and pages and scraps of ephemera the origins of which are sometimes unknown to me.  We made a series of collages combining as diverse an assortment of papers as possible in each image. Then we began monotyping. I drew with lithographic inks on a plexiglass sheet, which was then printed directly on each collage. I could then re draw the original image and drop it on another collage, and then go back and rework the first. In short, it was a flurry of wonderful, artistic activity.

Here is one of the images: Lemon I.

To see more of them, please visit where you can see examples of many of the other monotypes.


“It is for him as if there can never be enough beauty, as if there were never a place where nor a time when beauty has not potentially existed, and as if there can never be enough expressions of it.”  – Kaikodo Journal, March, 2014

Each year, Kaikodo Gallery has a spring show. It opens during Asia Week (March 14-22, 2014) in New York City. For the show, they publish a thoroughly researched book, Kaikodo Journal, in which each exhibited piece has a detailed article about it. While they show historical material mostly from China and Japan, I was one of several contemporary artists asked to make something for the exhibition this year. This is a remarkable essay and  a wonderful summation of my philosophy.


Robert Kushner, White Peonies: A Cumulus Accumulation, 2013



Painting Entry 20-2_edited-1


Painting Entry 20-3

14 08

oil, acrylic, gold leaf on canvas

To be shown next season at DC Moore Gallery. Date to be announced.

“A Dealer’s Eye, and Life: ‘Hooray for Hollywood!’ Recalls Holly Solomon’s Eye for Art”
by Roberta Smith
The New York Times, January 16, 2014

In her article, Roberta Smith covers “Hooray for Hollywood!,” an expansive exhibit at two adjacent New York galleries, Pavel Zoubok and Mixed Greens that celebrate the eclectic eye of ‘Pop princess,’ collector, patron and art dealer, Holly Solomon.

Smith presents Solomon’s early interest in the Pattern & Design movement (P&D) and goes on to single out Robert Kushner’s Wedding Dress (1976):

“While providing a glimpse of the pluralist nature of 1970s art, this show occasionally demonstrates how its disparate strands intersect. Exhibit A is Mr. Kushner’s “Wedding Dress,” a wryly beautiful, rarely seen costume painting from 1976 that consists of an undulant expanse of filmy cream-colored fabric painted with attenuated fleurs-de-lis in red or violet and edged with gold tassels. It reflects Mr. Kushner’s attention to Islamic art and delivers a campy but unavoidable decorative punch while also “dematerializing the art object” — as the Post-Minimalists would say — so much so it could be carried in a shopping bag. This piece is emblematic of its moment but not trapped in it, and should be in a museum collection.”

Click here to read the article in full.

Robert Kushner, “The Wedding Dress,” (1976). Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery



Robert Kushner | Paintings 2010-2013 & The Four Seasons at the Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, OH | 1.10.14 – 4.12.14

January 9, 2014

  Robert Kushner’s exhibition at Carl Solway Gallery includes paintings from 2010 to the present, a small selection of prints and The Four Seasons, four large-scale paintings recently removed from Cincinnati’s Tower Place. The works feature his signature botanical subjects, often set against backgrounds of richly textured geometric patterns. In 1990, Robert Kushner was commissioned […]

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“Silk & Cotton” by Susan Meller

December 19, 2013

Susan Meller and her robust, profound, abiding love of textiles first crossed my radar in 1991 when I was asked by Artforum to review her astonishing book:  Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers (Harry N. Abrams, 1991, 2002). It is […]

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The Gramercy Tavern’s “Cornucopia” Mural

October 30, 2013

The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook by Chef Michael Anthony has just published! Gramercy Tavern is a sophisticated fine-dining restaurant in the Flatiron District of Manhattan—and this is a fabulously mouth-watering, much-anticipated cookbook. I am honored that my twenty panel mural, Cornucopia (1993-1994), commissioned for the restaurant by Gramercy Tavern owner, Danny Meyer, figures within the pages of […]

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We Are Not Begonias. We Come Back.

September 5, 2013

      Maine. So far away. So unknown (at least to me). Yet, once experienced, delightful and seductive. So many artists wax rhapsodic when it comes to Maine and art making. Yet for me, it was a land of limited and distant associations. My primary association with Maine dates back to when my mother […]

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“Robert Kushner: Wildflowers/Garden Flowers” by Hannah Hoel

August 22, 2013

In 2004, Robert Kushner wrote, “Don’t carrot sticks look more inviting when framed by a nipple? And what about a glimpse of hair behind the mesh of a hotdog apron?” Nowadays, food seems to have lost its eroticized quality, with dining relegated to a sterile void while fingering long-stemmed wine glasses amid candlelight is ancient history. […]

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