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Rainbow Through a Mist of Rust, 2020

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A Geography of Dreams Exhibition in the Virtual Stanford Coulter Art Gallery, 2020.

Peeling Wallpaper Portraits, 2020. Digitally rendered: ⅜” square steel tubing, 14 gauge steel panels, rust.
120 x 8 x 72 in.

The Harvest of a Cornfield, 2020. Digitally rendered: ⅜” square steel tubing, bricks. 36 x 8 x 96 in.

My Jewelry Shop is Open 9-5 Daily, Except Sundays, 2020. Digitally rendered: 18 gauge sheet steel, ⅜” square steel tubing, bituminous coal, rust. 36 x 48 x 14 in.

Time is a Distance (Spinning), 2020. Digitally rendered: found driveshafts, 18 gauge sheet steel.
60 x 42 x 38 in.

In Cincinnati, the materials of buildings (brick walls, concrete, steel rods, and sheeting) are always present, primarily in the demolition sites of old buildings and factories. Rusted steel rebar jutting out of a pile of crumbled bricks and concrete is an image repeated many times. These materials, along with the idea of rust, are discarded by many, not given a second glance. They represent a history of the Midwest known as the Rust Belt.

My sculpture series, Rainbow Through a Mist of Rust,  is made from the industrial materials of steel panels, steel tubing, rust, bricks, coal, and found driveshafts. The weight of the materials is not evident in the digital rendering of the sculptures, creating an image removed from the physical reality of steel.

Time is a Distance (Spinning) suspends heavily rusted driveshafts to lean in space towards the viewer. Rust, whether natural or human-made, is a marker of time. My sculptures are also a marker, of the manufacturing industry that has left. My sculptures physically represent what remains, and symbolically allude to the populations of people who left.

The Harvest of a Cornfield is a construction of steel tubing, oriented like a suspension bridge crossing one of the many rivers in the Midwest. Subtle ideas of labor are present in my work, through time and physically consuming processes such as welding. Labor is also placed on the viewers, as my works block, reach into, and exist in space.


"Nicholas Robles draws inspiration from a place rich in personal and collective significance. His sculptures inventively combine and re-configure discarded industrial materials such as automobile parts, metal sheeting and tubing, and bricks, which are abundant in sites across the Midwest town of Cincinnati known as the “Rust Belt,” where he grew up. For the artist, these physical remains “allude to the populations of people who left.” Rusted driveshafts are affixed to a common base on the ground and positioned like reaching limbs, or an array of rifles in a ceremonial ritual, and bricks line the top of a bridge constructed from bent steel tubing; these silent objects are removed from their contexts and functionalities, gaining an unfamiliar presence that speaks poignantly about a recent industrial past—its faded glory, its ultimate demise, and transformation."

-Xiaoze Xie

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