From the shadows they cast on the background they stand against, to the crow’s feet around their eyes, Carter’s portrait subjects are teeming with life. He manages to capture details that end up defining the character of the given piece; Nick Murray’s tie adjustment, Jeb Bush’s gaze into the eyes of God, Michael Jordan’s clasped hands and sideways glance. Each portrait has its own color scheme, reflected in the background as well as various parts of the person’s image- a scarf, a tie, a sweater. This meticulous use of brush strokes and the palette brings the piece and the person together before your eyes. In addition, though I’ve never met the guy, I think Carter’s self-portraits mirror his personality with all its quirks, and I appreciate the emboldened sense of honesty I get from them.
Robert’s other illustrations are just as powerful as his portraits, showing his ability to cast the human figure in a number of different lights. A lot of the work he has done for the Washington Post focuses on rare ailments and conditions, and he does an amazing job of channeling quiet desperation. The often solitary figures in his pieces are shown facing their demons, giving the viewer an intimate glimpse of their pain. Many of Carter’s pieces confront the issues that plague modern American society, as seen in “What a Waste”, his painting of a disabled and forgotten Iraq war veteran, or “Holding on to Reason”, a depiction of the helplessness associated with oncoming dementia.
Robert Carter’s work ranges from ethereal to extremely down-to-earth. Most importantly, it is relevant. I would love to see his take on more of the global social and political problems emerging today, because it’s artists like him that connect people to the world outside their own.
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