Museum  February 20, 2018  Rachel Ozerkevich

“Business as Usual” in Bob Trotman's Send Up of Corporate Culture at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design

Courtesy of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design.

Bob Trotman's Denier (foreground), 2016, as installed at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design.

According to the introductory exhibition text, sculptor Bob Trotman’s Business as Usual aims to examine “the confluence of power, privilege, greed, and pretense that often characterizes the world of corporate capitalism.” The show emphasizes the dehumanizing nature of corporate America. But because they respond to the visitor’s approach via motion activation, there is a surprisingly intimate and playful relation between these objects and the spectator.

Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer is confronted by Face Time: a huge white head suspended from the ceiling. It scowls at the viewer, challenging us to walk around it. Once behind the work, we see that it’s hollow. The fact that this piece is a giant mask is itself hidden by its seemingly solid and imposing frontal appearance.

Courtesy of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design

Bob Trotman, Trumpeter, 2014

2014’s Trumpeter is a stout wooden body in a suit, but with a fiberglass trumpet in place of a head and neck. As the viewer approaches it, the trumpet spouts aggressive-sounding nonsense: it mumbles what seems to be a lively and condescending monologue. The majority of the other works displayed likewise become animated in when approached, an effect that is startling and amusing.

White Man of 2015-2017 closes the show much in the way that Face Time opened it—with larger than life suspended figures hovering above the viewer. In this case, three men appear to float upward, as if being abducted by invisible forces. All in white, their faces are partially obscured by their sheer height, so they do not confront us like Face Time does. Instead, their monochrome uniformity seems to comment on the racial homogeneity of corporate America just as much as their hollow backs point to the vacuous nature of many mega-corporations. Like this closing piece, the show’s collection of mechanized depictions of corporate robots is condemning, clever, and surprising all at once.

Courtesy of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design

The newly renovated Gregg Museum of Art and Design.

Reopened in August 2017, the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University provides a much-needed new home to an impressive collection of textiles and other artworks. The new building is literally a meeting point between old and new—it combines the Historic Chancellor’s Residence, a 1927 Georgian mansion with elegant landscaping, with a sleek wood-paneled addition designed by the Durham-based Perkins+Will architectural firm. Works are displayed in both the light-filled new addition and in the restored residence’s stately rooms. The Gregg’s current exhibition of local sculptor Bob Trotman’s multimedia works is an ideal opportunity to view contemporary sculpture in a space that is at once both steeped in local history and open to current innovation.

Learn more about the Gregg Museum of Art & Design.

About the Author

Rachel Ozerkevich

Rachel Ozerkevich lives in Raleigh, NC and is a PhD student in Art History at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her doctoral research focuses on athletic subject matter in French painting and news media immediately before the First World War. 

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