Artist Robert Farber is all about visualizing ideas of change over time and then evocatively blending styles and mediums.
His commercial photography has always echoed fine art composition. He continues to set up different mediums to be in a continuous conversation with each other.
Farber is not only interested in illustrating ideas of change over time, but he is also constantly adapting to changing circumstances. Most recently, he’s worked to create video animations of his works that degraded with time. His animations are a new art form themselves while also showing how an individual artwork changes with time and age.
We caught up with Farber to learn about his new and online retrospective, Women as Art Exhibition: 50 Years of an Evolving Vision. While he uses Artwork Archive to organize his artwork and manage his photography, no artist can plan for everything. Robert Farber embraces the unexpected to find silver linings in chaos. Whether it's an online retrospective fit for life during a pandemic or finding abstraction in damaged prints, Farber embodies creative flexibility in reaction to the unplanned.
What led up to the exhibition?
[RF] This is a 50 year retrospective of my work that was supposed to be released for an in-person show. We’ve been working on this for the last year and a half, and it was supposed to be released in Dallas, then Sao Paulo, New York, and ultimately Paris.
My career itself started with my first book that came out in 1976 of fine art nudes. At the same time, I was working as a commercial photographer for fashion and beauty. My fine art style and commercial style “grew up” together and worked off of each other.
At one point, Jackie Onanyss brought me on to do a book called By the Sea, so I was doing other work including still lives and landscapes. But, the main focus of my career has been with fine art nudes and beauty, fashion— and everything in the genre of women.
Deterioration Series - 126, Robert Farber. 1984 - 2013. Dye-infused aluminum. 48 x 70 inches (122 x 178 cm). Print 10/10
How are you making this online exhibit come to be?
[RF] I’m not the only force behind making this exhibit happen. There are a lot of sponsors for this retrospective, LVMH with their new tequila called Volcan, Artwork Archive, and Fine Art Papers.
All of these sponsors and this support creates a nice synergy—and only happened because I had to go online the exhibit. All the plans I had got canceled because of COVID-19. As a result, the exhibit is all virtual and online.
What we created was a unique art environment. People are getting used to being online for exhibitions. Even Art Basel and Art Miami were online this year. We were able to create something new for an opening and have that become worldwide and accessible online. We will have openings in different countries around the world and hosted by different galleries. It will start on November 10th in the U.S., with The Selects Gallery based out of New York, and go to other galleries in Aspen, Dallas, Miami, and so on.
It seems like we have come to a new place with our ideas and to a new place of work, online and virtual. I hope art sharing continues this way and can adapt to the times.
Has how your representation of women changed throughout the years?
[RF] Aside from the style, what has changed is me–you can’t change a style, it evolves into other things–what changes is mostly someone’s vision and inspiration. My inspiration comes from my desire to do new things. You could almost say a sense of boredom with doing the same thing drives me.
You have to reinvent yourself for yourself. You could reinvent yourself for your audience who might like the changes, but you have to reinvent for yourself first.
You can see how my work has changed over time in the exhibition.
In exhibitions, we have narratives and audio about the changes in my work. For example, some of my classic fashion photographs started deteriorating because of how they were stored since they weren’t in archival sleeves. I visited them over the years and in 2013 thought, “Wow, these are quite unique and different”. It’s something you couldn’t do with Photoshop and it was all a natural change with how they deteriorated.
We ended up scanning them and putting them in sleeves and releasing them as part of the “Deterioration Series” that will be in the Women as Art Exhibition along with the classic nudes and fashion and beauty prints. What's more, most of the images in the exhibit have never been released to the galleries before.
Deterioration Series - 155, Robert Farber. 1982 - 2013. Archival pigment print. 40 x 60 inches (102 x 152 cm). Print 9/10
After finding your destroyed photos, has the importance of archiving your work grown?
[RF] As a photographer, it’s different than if you are, say, a painter. You have a lot more information to save as a photographer.
When I first found Artwork Archive early on, maybe eight years ago, I was impressed. I had been looking for a program that could track editions and archive thousands of images.
Whether it's documenting details for my art inventory or keeping track of edition numbers, sales, galleries, or locations around the world, and then being able to create any type of report, Artwork Archive has grown into everything that I wanted and needed.
I recommend Artwork Archive to my friends and to my collectors and institutions. It’s the best I’ve seen in a program. For artists, Artwork Archive is affordable. Especially to an up-and-coming artist, it’s not cost-prohibitive.
How did you come to use your art as fundraising, and how will that work in this event?
[RF] When it comes to the retrospective and my involvement with breast cancer research, that all started in 1994 when I was commissioned to do a nude cover for Newsweek for a breast cancer story.
I became involved with breast cancer research support since I also have personal family experiences with breast cancer. I started dedicating my books to a close friend who passed away from it and then became more and more involved in the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
With this exhibit, we are working to raise funds and to raise awareness. I am doing a few things to fundraise with art sales. One is giving buyers an art image when they donate to breast cancer research at a URL we provide. I've donated a print where people can choose between a classic fashion print and a 30 x 40 in print on sublimation infused dye, developed by Chromaluxe and printed by Blazing Editions. People can also choose from 37 images in the exhibition. They can choose an image that is worth up to 19k dollars and all they have to do is donate to breast cancer. For a ten dollar donation, they have their choice of those images.
They also have the option of a print that is framed and ready to hang of a special edition print. If they want this one, they can donate $50 to breast cancer and they can purchase these prints for a discounted rate of $850 instead of $3,000 dollars.
There is a uniqueness to what Robert Farber is doing.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions on having in-person events, Farber has come up with a way to create an immersive digital experience for the gallery openings.
With a virtual gallery, how do you do things differently?
You can expect 3-D galleries and live collaboration with the event sponsors. For people who participate and ask questions, LVMH will send a virtual tasting of their tequila. "There's a unique energy about it," said Farber.