Robert Mann, elder son of Russian émigrés parents, was born in 1924 in Toronto, Canada--a growing city surrounded by lush farmlands. In 1950 Mann came to Los Angeles with his wife Gilda to begin a sixty-year journey of exploration and expression. He restored porcelain and bronze, and constructed flamenco guitars, finding a deep friendship with the great guitarist Villarino and the gypsy flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya. Other pursuits included boxing, collecting art deco and art nouveau antiques, Native American art and jewelry, restoration of antique Chinese jade trees, landscape design, and serious scientific study of the universe. But in 1965 Mann took up painting with a passion for the years of his youth: family picnics laden with succulent watermelons, vegetables delivered by horse-drawn cart, languid figures in rural settings, and a fascination for the look of the Hollywood stars from the 20s & 30s, but not the lifestyle. His memories were realized with superb technique, distinctive clarity, and singular vision. Mann’s 1975 solo exhibition at the Staempfli Gallery in New York City, March 25 to april 19, was a success: works were placed in collections worldwide. But after painting for three more years, completing a series of “Deco Babes,” inexplicably, he stopped painting entirely! Had he said all that he wanted to say in the medium? The artist today might be considered an intriguing example of the “outsider,” the self-taught artist who followed no trend, who took his own painterly path driven by idiosyncratic, deeply nostalgic content influenced by photography and visual recall of a sometimes enchanted, sometimes dystopic youth.
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