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Free Rob Will II ↬ 24 Sept-28 Oct 2019

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

We are extremely excited to announce the second round of Free Rob Will, Innocent on Death Row.

Trinity School + Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom × The Vanderbilt Republic invite you to experience “Innocent on Death Row” / Free Rob Will II — a curated encounter with a decade of paintings and drawings by Robert G. Will (wrongfully convicted, Texas 999402) at Trinity School’s 4,000ft2 panoramic gallery at 101 W 91 10024, nestled in a world-class coeducational independent school for grades K-12.

A sequel to Free Rob Will (13-23 August 2019, in midtown Manhattan’s Bellewether), this exhibition of literal flowers from hell happens 24 September-28 October 2019 alongside an evolving program of live podcast recordings, criminal justice reform immersions and special participatory happenings.

Gregg V. Emery (Trinity School head of visual arts) will team with Jason Flom (Lava Media founder/CEO + Wrongful Conviction podcast host) alongside George Del Barrio (creative director × executive producer, The Vanderbilt Republic) to lead a powerful group of criminal justice reformers, media stalwarts and Trinity School faculty/student/alumni community in forging new connections to Rob Will, his unjust imprisonment, and his work. In understanding and exploring how Mr. Will has found refuge in spiritual practice and creative self-discovery while enduring solitary confinement on death row for 19 years, young adults will connect with the most life-affirming aspects of art itself.

Featuring site-responsive curation, lighting & technical design by George Del Barrio, the installation is intended, through deeply personal curatorial awareness of the artwork, to create proximity to the daily experience and story of Robert G. Will. This self-taught painter, whose technique involves crushing colored pencils with his hands and then melting wax to make paint, was wrongfully convicted in 2000 of shooting and killing a police officer in Harris County, Texas. In October 2018, when a Texas federal judge denied relief to Mr. Will, District Court Judge Keith Ellison stated he “almost certainly would have granted” a new trial. Only amendments made to federal habeas corpus law in the 1990s prevented Judge Ellison from addressing “the troubling possibility of [Rob Will]’s actual innocence.

On the surface, young New Yorkers may have little to nothing in common with a Texan who endures solitary confinement (23 hours per day in a 6’ x 10’ cell without access to internet or television) while awaiting the death sentence. Trinity School visual arts head Gregg V. Emery shared, “I am constantly amazed at how art, in its many forms, has the power to connect people of vastly different life experiences.  Most, if not all, of our students have never had any contact with a person on death row.  Rob Will’s art allows us a window into his thoughts, experiences, meditations, dreams and nightmares.  Perhaps we can find common ground and a connection in the marks, poetry and color in these incredible artworks that have sadly and beautifully become his lifework.  Perhaps, they may even be the key that helps unlock the door that holds this innocent man.

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