The Art of Prophet Royal Robertson

 

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The artist outside his home. 

It is always a delight to come across such singular and, inevitably, semi-obscure individuals who do not neatly fit into society’s boxes. However, the outsider art category, by its very nature, often risks pigeonholing such figures, but this is not the place to discuss this. Instead, I wish to extol the astounding artwork of the American artist, ”Libra Patriarch Prophet Lord Archbishop Apostle Visionary Mystic Psychic Saint” Royal Robertson (1936-1997). Robertson, who lived most of his life in Louisiana, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and it seems to have been this psychosis that gave him his prodigious imagination. Like William Blake, he claimed to have experienced supernal visions throughout his life, and, like the Englishman, he put his wondrous visions to paper. Much of his artwork combines Biblical imagery and themes with pulp imagery, including extra-terrestrials and futuristic crafts and cities (his first vision, he claimed, was of God piloting a spacecraft); in this, he resembles Sun Ra, another self-mythologizing African-American whose head brimmed with Bibles and spaceships and attitude. Robertson’s work can also be seen as relating to the wider Afrofuturism movement, which is, essentially, Afrocentric phantasy and science fiction. And if his artwork was not memorable enough, his home was decorated with signs and drawings, many with messages denouncing ”bastards” and whores”, and a number of shrines dedicated to his ex-wife. A Southern-fried William Blake.

 

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