Rob van der Schoor
D. Dominick Lombardi
In 2002, Amsterdam-based artist Rob van der Schoor spent three months in Southeast Asia where he focused his attention on local religious doctrines. While there, Schoor created a number of figurative, somewhat comical watercolors that pit his Protestant upbringing against the teachings of Eastern religion and philosophy. It is unclear in the work—in these representations of Christ and Buddha—who, if anyone, is trying to convert or impress whom. What is obvious, however, is that Schoor cares little about reaching any kind of universal truth. Fortunately, this does not affect his ability to make compelling images.
Smile is a close-up view of Jesus sporting an oversized, crescent-shaped, bright white smile. The white, which lacks any indication of individual teeth, is so unnatural that one doubts Christ’s sincerity. In fact, he looks a bit intoxicated—maybe not with drink, but perhaps lost in some profound thought or realization. Written across the paper are the words “Jesus Smiles,” which alleviates any implied depth of meaning the work might otherwise achieve. In addition to this creepy smile, Schoor adds rose buds to Christ’s crown of thorns, attaching another layer of oddness to the imagery.
Zweetdoek shows a sad Christ, his crown of thorns and flowers still in place, holding up a piece of cloth with Buddha’s face imprinted on it. This, of course, refers to the Shroud of Turin. I guess you could read into this image a commentary on the interchangeability of religious beliefs, or the suggestion that Christ himself is embracing the teachings of Buddhism and that the flowers which grow from his thorny crown are a result of this new spiritual realization—but that is a push.
Rob van der Schoor, Nails, 2002
Watercolor on paper
20 x 26 inches
The painting Gravity and Enlightenment shows our two subjects—Jesus and Buddha—sitting under what one assumes to be the pipal tree of Bodh Gaya, the place where Siddhartha was said to have achieved supreme enlightenment. Taking a page from Sir Isaac Newton’s life, both Christ and Buddha have been hit on the noggin with an apple, leaving a cartoonish, oversized bump on top of their heads. Taking this blow on the head as some sort of sign, both remain seated in contemplation. I suspect the artist is literally trying to ground or bring gravity to the situation—an interesting pun when one contemplates the context of the show.
Schoor periodically takes a break from his focus on spiritualism and takes aim at modern art and popular culture. In Talking Pictures we see a man in a heavy overcoat and red cap looking somewhat like a flasher. Spewing out of his open mouth is a seemingly endless series of variously colored dots. These dots find their way onto a painting hanging on a museum wall. This event and the work’s title suggest contemporary art’s reliance on the written word for validation—that art’s worth, or more specifically art’s import, is directly related to the buzz created by the collective art world.
Rob van der Schoor, Talking Pictures, 2003
Watercolor on paper
26 x 20 inches
Kings takes a swipe at the heroes of popular culture. “The King of Rock Meets the King of Souls” is inscribed across the top and bottom of the paper. A gaunt Elvis sings and strums a cross-shaped guitar as a happy-faced Christ looks on. The components of this work in particular reveal the intent of Schoor’s series: to bring to light the level to which the artist does not accept or follow any preset tenet or belief system. With minimal colors and sparse settings, Schoor deconstructs—no, decompresses—religion. He offers a sort of day-to-day aesthetic that leads nowhere fast, yet places events that are fairly far afield into a contemporary place. Schoor brings an edgy yet benign bizarreness to two of humankind’s most beloved figures.
Simply put, Schoor’s paintings are well executed and entertaining. They consistently approach an intense degree of content, but deliver only cheap thrills. Schoor’s art is not unlike the drawings of Robert Crumb, who also targets anything and anybody with stark renditions of fertile truths. That said, I was still drawn to the work. There is something about the series that stayed with me. It’s a discordant feeling that lingers—the visceral effect, perhaps, of seeing such powerful icons stripped of any presumptive capacity. Meaning, meaningfulness…these are the concepts in question.