• Words and photos by Sarah Sansom

Seeking SANCTUARY: Rob TMO Plater's Solo Show


Acrylics featuring the artist's signature mask/headdresses


Here at Sold Magazine, we've been fans of Rob 'TMO' Plater for years, having seen his murals at the Centrefuge Public Art trailer, FSG Park and JMZ Walls, among many places around the city. A Queens native born in 1988, he merges classical training and pop culture/comic book references to create work that is truly distinctive.


Last week his first solo exhibit at 212 Arts opened - an urban artwork gallery dedicated to showcasing graffiti and street art in its East Village space. We stopped by to chat with the artist and see the new work. Arranged with acrylic panels on one wall and watercolors/graphite drawings on another, there a great variety in style and scale. Scroll down to see our photos.

The artist at the gallery opening, 8.15.19


On the theme of the show, the artist says,


'My most current work is heavily anchored in the concepts of identity and perception. At times, I explore these concepts from the perspective of a child or young adult in nature settings or urban environments. These characters will usually wear masks, headdresses and armor that take the form of various animals, monsters and fictional characters.


The masks/headdresses in combination with the figures are standiins for the various stigmas/stereotypes that we use as tools for social engineering. Furthermore, my paintings provide a direct statement about the struggle to blend in as opposed to being perceived as the “OTHER” within the confines of modern society.


For this exhibition I am interested in conveying how the masks can also be a reflection of the person wearing them to a point where they function as camouflage, armor, and most importantly… a Sanctuary.'

Oathkeepers, Acrylic paint on panel, 16" by 20"

Suicidal Thoughts, Acrylic paint on panel, 11" by 14"

'TMO has a great recognizable style. You can see the comic and illustrator influences but he’s made it his own. That’s hard to do these days. The show had a great variety of content but a cohesive theme.'

- Artist Chris RWK, founder of graffiti & street art website Robots Will Kill

Born Loser, Acrylic paint on panel, one of the big showstoppers in the exhibit

We spoke with gallery Director Marc Leader about what first drew him to the artist's work,

'What I love about Rob's work is how distinctive and unique his visual vocabulary is. If you see one of his pieces, you know it’s his instantly. Within his work he’s able to address important themes like self perception and identity, but does so in a nuanced way that causes the viewer to place the work in the context of their own lives.


Within the body of work in the exhibit Rob did a great job varying mediums and sizes which I feel makes for a more interesting installation. We actually ended up dividing his install into two days so that we could take a step back and re-examine how everything flowed together.'

Wolvie, Acrylic paint on panel, 9" by 12"

Have you ever wondered what TMO stands for?


It's short for T-MONEY, a name Rob's cousin Louie gave him when he used to tag his name graffiti-style. Since Louie unfortunately passed away, Rob pays homage to him by using TMO, at the same time recalling his early days as an artist.

In the Cut, Acrylic on panel, 12" x 12" (SOLD)


As the painting above is so different, we asked the artist to elaborate on it:


"In the Cut" is a painting that was born out of a nagging desire to say something about current issues plaguing our society. Being that I am of Black and Puerto Rican descent, I wanted to explore the current social perceptions of Americans of color and how it affects our ability to make progress in this country.


The painting is an image of an older caucasian man whose face is cracked open between the nose and mouth like a plastic Pez Dispenser, revealing a red fleshy core. Inside of the interior of the man's mouth is the head of a small a small black child that is slightly exposed as he appears to be hiding or emerging. A literal interpretation is that the child is wearing the man as a disguise or armor.


The image to me is about the frustration of being perceived as "The Other" and in turn creating an outer core that will either soften people's stance/reaction toward us, or provide us with the success and opportunities we desperately crave. The title "In the Cut" also implies the nature of the child either in seclusion, or laying low in a safe place.


My interpretation of the work is very specific to my personal experiences but my hope is that viewers can project their own thoughts about its core meaning.'


‘Art was something I could always turn to as a coping mechanism or as something I used purely to enlighten my mind. The pace at which I create and the imagery I make is all a very essential part of my life not only to express random emotions, but it also gives me a power to speak a language unlike anything I’ve ever been able to do in a classroom or behind a podium.’

- Rob TMO Plater, AnimalNewYork, 2015

Above: 'Stormbringer', Acrylics including 'Just 11', Watercolor and pen pieces, and Graphite works

Some of Plater's murals around NYC in recent years:

'I Ain't Rich Cuz There Aint' No Money in the Truth' for JMZ Walls, Brooklyn, 2015

First Street Green Art Park, Houston Street construction blocks, and live painting at 'Brooklyn is the Future' charity event, 2015

SANCTUARY runs for two weeks until Thursday August 29, after which remaining work will be available online. Stop by soon to see the work in its entirety. It's worth a visit!

SANCTUARY, August 15 - August 29

212 Arts

523 E 12th St., New York, NY 10009

Thursday - Saturday 3 - 7pm

Closed Sunday - Wednesday

212 Arts TMO store: 212arts.com

Artist's store: TMOart

Instagram: tmoplater

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