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Luis Robayo

I was born in Bogota, Colombia.  From the age of five I was an apprentice to my father training as an engineer to repair and troubleshoot high-level mechanical issues in the largest financial institutions in the country. My father was on-call for emergency repairs flying all over the country and would bring me with him. Being an apprentice meant absolute obedience and being at the end of his sometimes brutal moods.  Throughout my childhood, until my mid-teens, I lived in terror of failing to follow my father's exact wishes, whether fixing the inner workings of a vault or some other action.  The financial institutions we worked at were all filled with magnificent art.  As a child I was inspired by the fact that a human being was capable of creating these masterpieces.  I remember the time that a hole was created in a malfunctioning vault so that I could be slipped through the wall to work on the vault from the inside.  My father, along with a small crowd of bankers waited on the other side, as I worked to pick the lock, and reset it, using all the skills I had been taught.  When I had done my work--the door swung open—and everyone cheered.  My father looked so happy--I had waited forever for him to show me this love.  The scent of money or metal can send me instantly back to the subterranean worlds of the vaults, when I was surrounded by the strong, sweaty smell of millions and millions of pesos and dollar bills and coins.  I began drawing repetitive dollar signs as a symbol for abundance, a conscious experiment to see if it might manifest abundance into my life.  After doing hundreds of thousands of dollar signs over the past ten years, the symbol has lost its original meaning for me. It is more like mantra or prayer.  Doing the dollar signs makes me relaxed and allows me a mental escape from any unhappiness.  I love the idea of continuing to do it until I pass, like a project that is never complete.


Luis has exhibited in Manhattan, Florida, Paris, Spain and South America. This is the North American premiere of his Dollar Signs collection, featuring ink on paper and ink on board.


Dakota Lane/ Author and writer for NY TIMES

In his mid-teens, Robayo was suddenly, and somewhat shockingly cut free from his ironclad apprenticeship--when he moved with his mother to Manhattan.  He was deeply influenced by the graffiti on the trains all around him--the power and freedom and rebellion of the work matching his yearning to be free.  Another influence is Cy Twombly, and one can see a subtle commonality, not only in the singular nature of their individual gestural work, but in the source of that work: an uncanny pull to not only unravel the learned pattern that is oppressive and replace it with one that is soothing and healing and springs from within--but to allow this process and the documentation of this process to be the work.  His work also offers evidence of a brain retraining itself--with hand and ink forming new and positive synapses.  Robayo's gestural signature line is a dollar sign--not as parody, not in homage, and not intellectually derived, but not sprung wholly from subconscious either.  Robayo's works are oceanic, calming, and comprehensive as a whole. They can work on the viewer like prayer flags, conveying a purity, and simplicity and integrity that one understands without having to discern the symbols inscribed on the flags.  The cumulative power of the work is that one flies over uncharted territory and might feel as the artist must have felt as a child, accompanying his father on plane trips, viewing not only the tangible world, but his inner world, without reference or perspective.

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