I first got to know designer Robert Shields when I was working at the Washington Design Center—he created this really moody, elegant, sophisticated library for our DreamHome in 2011, which was inspired by a 1925 Art Deco diamond-and-emerald brooch on a string of black pearls.
Fast forward a few years, and we’re both in a different place: I’ve gone back to writing full time, while Robert is reaching back to his own roots in art, after setting aside his formal education in painting for 25 years as he built his interior design business. “I’ve been having this really overwhelming need to be creating images,” he says now. “I’ve been developing my own voice through everything I’ve seen over the last 25 years.”
Last week marked the opening of his first exhibit at the Boffi/Maxalto showroom in Georgetown’s Cady’s Alley. There are 18 oversized pieces, which Robert describes as “painterly abstract pictures [created by] using a camera.” They’ll be on display through April 17.
The chic crowd, along with the muted atmosphere of Boffi’s modern showroom, made for a perfect backdrop.
The photographs are divided into three series: Rhapsody; Dark Rhapsody; and Dream Fragments.
The Rhapsody series riffs on the musical genre—Robert’s a trained pianist—which is essentially form without structure.
Dark Rhapsody was produced during “an excruciatingly difficult” time in his life, he says, and “this is what emerged from me as a result of that struggle.”
Dream Fragments are his “personal visual idiosyncrasy,” he says, literally like when you wake from a dream, and “it’s like trying to hold onto that fragment and make sense of it in a waking state.”
“They all kind of talk to each other,” he says of each group, but don’t ask him what, specifically, he was aiming his camera at to produce the images. “Assess for yourself what the image is. Bring your own experience to it. Make it yours.”
Robert’s currently working on more abstracts, after collecting more than 1,800 images of “data” from a trip to Southeast Asia over the holidays. He’s also just finished decorating his own pied-a-terre in New York, while he continues to design for clients here in DC. I can’t wait to see what will come from him next.
In the meantime, stop by Boffi/Maxalto at 3320 M St. NW to see Robert’s work, which spans both floors. Sensual and stunning!