Robert Anton (1949–84), a fantastically unique member of New York’s avant-garde theater scene of the 1970s, fabricated elaborate puppets and props for silent plays he enacted in miniature prosceniums. In addition to drawings, news clippings, letters, and a recent film of interviews with friends and fans, “The Theatre of Robert Anton” gathers thirty-nine puppets—which Anton referred to as “actors”—and doll-size props arranged on pedestals in dramatically lit tableaux. Fellini-inspired clowns, a trash lady, and a disgraced Pope, among other characters, are sheathed in black velvet robes. Inspired by people Anton observed near his apartment in Verdi Square Park, the puppets’ plaster faces are highly detailed, although they represent a range of archetypes rather than individuals.
Anton prohibited visual documentation of his works, but fawning admirers like Diana Vreeland, Robert Wilson, Susan Sontag, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono described mesmerizing, intimate spectacles (a maximum of eighteen people were allowed to see each performance, often staged at Anton’s apartment). I imagine that Anton felt very close to his puppet figures; one, titled Alter Ego, suggests that he considered himself a part of these miniature worlds. During his performances, he, like his puppets, would don a black velvet turtleneck, so only his face and those of the other actors were visible. Anton clearly understood the power and fascination of miniatures. When the scale is decreased, drama is heightened. —Julia Wolkoff