Prophet Royal Robertson

The Exodus

October 19 - November 25, 2018


Prophet Royal Robertson (1936–1997) was an alien among men. He spent his entire life living in a small slice of rural Louisiana and existed in a hallucinogenic realm where other-worldly visions and “out of body” travels competed with the minutiae of daily life. All of these experiences were quickly recorded by Royal in the form of obsessive writings, detailed calendars and visionary drawings.

Robertson worked as a sign painter for his small community before mental illness led to the closure of his business. Using a wide range of graphic techniques from his sign painting days, he compulsively covered his property in Baldwin, LA with apocalyptic double-sided drawings and foreboding paintings on found wood. Visitors to his home were greeted with large, weather-beaten signs warning “NO PROUD BASTARDS” and “ALL CRAZY PERSONS KEEP OFF LOT” before entering the artist's home. Inside the house, shrines to his ex-wife, Adell, took center stage amid poster board renderings of futuristic cities, fantastic automobiles, UFOs, couples engaged in sex, angels and space Gods/Goddesses, and detailed calendars chronicling his woes and visions. Referencing sources as disparate as the Bible, cheap tabloid magazines and pornography, his work graphically illustrates the daily concerns that occupied his mind, those both real and imagined.

The self-proclaimed “Prophet” Royal Robertson lived an isolated and oftentimes tormented life. While his artistic output sometimes feels confrontational or hostile, his work is always grounded in a deep love for his wife Adell and their children, who were forced to leave Baldwin as his mental illness hit a fever pitch. Despite the trauma of losing his entire family, art making brought Royal’s life profound meaning and helped him to occupy his time and temper his darkest inclinations.

As part of this exhibition, the original drawing used by Sufjan Stevens for his album, The Age of Adz, will be on display. Stevens not only incorporated imagery by Robertson for his cover and insert artwork, he also used the artist’s life story as the conceptual springboard for the album’s narrative.