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The Rule of Progress

Rob Grad

Southern California native, Rob Grad, is known for his introspective, yet bold 3D collages, sculptures, writing, and music. His heavily layered visuals contrast photographic vignettes of natural and urban environments, with drawing, painting, and his words–an aesthetic largely shaped by his two decades living in Venice Beach, CA.

Grad’s approach to using Joshua Trees in his work is largely metaphorical. He references a story of Mormons naming the trees, where they felt the branches were reaching to heaven. This work was inspired by a poem Grad wrote about progress, and how it can’t be measured with a line on a graph. He writes, “it’s a flailing, fussy, slobbery glob.” In this image, Grad is posing the question, what actually is “progress?” What is the benefit? And what is the cost? Lines and shapes move in and around the branches, suggesting how close our relationship is with our environment, even at great distances apart. But it is only the tree that touches the ground and has the ability to find water for nourishment in the barren landscape. The idea of nourishment can also be seen as a metaphor here, for nourishing our desires and our thirst for a better life and a better tomorrow. Is that in fact, what we are creating? Can society as a whole actually learn and grow from its missteps? 

Grad’s work addresses the existential issues of desire and fulfillment in a society inundated by technology, social media, and politics. His new work is increasingly influenced by his early career as a musician when he was signed to RCA records and appeared on MTV not long after graduating high school.

He is a product of the “MTV generation,” which found its identity through a shared global experience before the invention of social media. It was a generation that invented itself as it went along. This ethos is a cornerstone of Grad’s studio practice, always pushing himself into new and uncomfortable territory in an effort to extract the extraordinary from the mundane. He has shown in museums, galleries, and art fairs from Basel to Miami, and Los Angeles.

Recent exhibitions include the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA, and the Torrance Art Museum in Torrance, CA. He has commissioned work in the San Francisco airport, Hudson Pacific Properties, El Rancho Properties, the Zildjian corporate offices in Boston and Los Angeles, LA’s Griffin Athletic Club, and his work is held in private collections.

Rob gave a TEDx Talk in Culver City, CA about authenticity in art and following the internal muse, and participated in a video project for TikTok China. He also writes a blog about his art practice called “Creativesphere,” and speaks to students in schools about the importance of learning to think creatively not only in art but to solve problems in today’s culture and society.

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