Robert Cargo

Self-taught, visionary, and outsider artists of the South
African-American quilts · Haitian spirit flags

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After 30 years of continuous operation, the Robert Cargo Folk Art Gallery has closed.

I am pleased to announce the December 2013 gift of the Robert Cargo Folk Art Collection and the Robert and Helen Cargo African American Quilt Collection to the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama. It is my hope that this gift honors the life-long passion of my parents as well as the creative spirits of these artists. May their shared legacy be enjoyed and celebrated for generations to come.  Please see the HOME PAGE for additional details.

Caroline Cargo

Royal Robertson  (1936 - 1997)

Except for a few years spent traveling in the west, Royal Robertson lived his entire life in Louisiana .  A former field hand and sign painter, Robertson said that he was “born drawing.”  In 1955, he married Adell Brent and fathered eleven children with her.  When abandoned by Adell after twenty years of marriage, Robertson descended into an uneasy existence, scorned by his neighbors and overcome by misogynistic rage.  Armed with magic markers, paints, colored pencils and ball point pens, Robertson immersed himself in creating a fantasy world depicted on poster board, responding to God’s command that he condemn the evil ways of women.

Each drawing is a window into the tormented world of the self-proclaimed “Prophet” Royal Robertson.  Bible verses and religious references mix with futuristic visionary images in highly eccentric, provocative works chronicling his paranoia and unsettled mental state.   His themes include images of aliens and spaceships, architectural drawings of dream houses and temples in futuristic cities, superhero figures, and portraits of Adelle and other Amazon women.     Robertson embellishes the colorful drawings with rambling, ranting texts, sometimes in cartoon-like balloons, that leave no doubt about the judgment reserved for adulterous whores and unfaithful spouses.

Many of these works include calendars chronicling agonizing memories of his unfaithful wife and their spoiled marriage in brief journal notations scribbled in each date's block.  Robertson's preoccupation with numerology and biblical prophecies of earth's final days as found in the book of Revelation are also evident. 

Robertson created an extraordinary environment within his modest home in Baldwin, Louisiana.  On the exterior, painted signs warned “whores” and “bastards” to stay away.  The interior of his home was densely crowded with his drawings pinned to every available wall.  In August 1992, the home was completely destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.  With the help of two collectors who helped him file papers with the federal government, he recovered from his losses.  In 1997, Royal Robertson died suddenly, just as he was finally reconciling his relationship with two of his children.