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BRUCE RUBENSTEIN at THE ART DISTRICT
12350 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604

Solo Exhibition
Opening reception Saturday October 16, 2010
6pm -10pm

PORTALS

Bruce Rubenstein's "Portals" represent the culmination of over twenty-five years of dedicated art-
making, the true epitome of an artist who has found his own unique voice. Throughout his career,
Rubenstein has experimented with numerous modes of representation and fabrication, studying
the work of his forerunners from ancient Egypt to the innovators of the late twentieth century,
allowing their work to inform and influence his own methods, and learning by example how best to
express his own singular vision. He cites the experience of viewing the exhibition of Robert
Rauschenberg's Combines as "life-changing", but the influence of Rauschenberg and others
(abstract impressionism, Cornell, the Russian avant-garde, amongst others) has resulted less in
slavish adherence to a particular aesthetic principal, than in a sense of empowerment, an
expansion of imagination and possibility, as to what form an art work can take, and from what
materials it can be assembled. The result of this experimentation, this inspiration from a variety of
sources, has resulted in a body of mature work that represents a distinct and forceful artistic voice,
instantly recognizable across the whole range of Rubenstein's oeuvre, but a voice which manifests
itself in the unique and individual stories told by each unique, individual piece.

The title "Portals" was not chosen haphazardly: the centerpiece of this recent work is a series
created around a suite of 100 year-old interior house doors, torn out and discarded, rescued and
resurrected. The doors are a physical evocation of that quality in Rubenstein's work that invites the
viewer to step through these portals that he has created, doorways each to their own self-
contained story-world. But these places of imagination and inspiration are ones in which frame of
mind and interpretation can vary as much from observer to observer as from piece to piece: from
the size, shape and arrangement of the different elements comprising each assemblage, to the
variety -and oftentimes mundanity -of the smallest components, each work proclaims its
necessary uniqueness and its own distinct narrative space. Each tells its own tale, but none is
oppressively emphatic about what that tale should be: as much as Rubenstein considers himself to
be a storyteller through his art, his work contains enough abstraction and open-endedness to
encourage the observer to take a full and active part in exploring the multiple meanings, echoes
and inferences suggested by the harmonized disparities of each piece.

METHOD

Rubenstein's creed is that art should concern itself with fundamental themes, elementary schemes
and global visions. No wonder therefore that his subject matter ranges widely, from autobiography
to tribute, from sardonic pop cultural commentary to the place of the godhead in the daily life of
individuals and nations, across multiple religions and worldwide regions. This last element is
particularly striking in a piece such as Veni, Vidi, Vici, which depicts an abstracted Christ figure, the
outstretched, crucified arms holding the chains from which a Star of David is suspended, applied
with tablets of the Ten Commandments. The cold-eyed title reinforces Rubenstein's view of the
porous nature of religious boundaries, which in any form can function as prison bars to the soul.
But equally, the whole piece exemplifies his curiosity concerning non-denominational deity; this
sense of a universal spirituality recurs in the paintings that incorporate specifically Buddhist
elements, and one is reminded by its tenets, along with those of other eastern faiths, of
Rubenstein's attention to the smallest, most insignificant and overlooked elements of our everyday
life, those normally insignificant objects in which God and spiritual succor can be found no less
than in the grandest gestures, tributes and glorifications that man can devise.

It is in large part this constant attention to the beauty of the quotidian that results in such a striking
three-dimensional physicality to Rubenstein's work: the thrown-away doors are just one example of
his inspired scavenging and bent for construction. Assemblages are stitched with burlap, applied
with wire, fitted with electric lights, and painted, collaged and stenciled upon; family relics and even
the ground ashes of his cremated brother impart a deeply powerful intensity to his autobiographical
works; multiple panels are bolted together to create pieces that share as much with the modern
traditions of sculpture as they do with painting and mixed media art. His willingness to use any
available object or image for his own ends even extends to the appropriation of his own work in
some instances, old canvases cut up and spliced together to be incorporated as new realizations
of old objects, in a new work with an entirely new significance.

The physical texture is an integral part of the works' importance. The most humble rusted pipe, an
old baseball card or an ancient fire screen all reveal their beauty and relevance in Rubenstein's
hands, whilst retaining -even expanding -their power as physical objects: the multiplicity of forms
and textures proclaims their overlooked importance by fundamentally dictating the form of the
finished work into which they have been incorporated. On occasion, this importance is of a different
level, as Rubenstein appropriates his inspirations in the form of quotation (from Warhol, or Johns
say) or by the collaging of actual cut-out imagery (Botero or Matisse, for example). That these
requisitioned images may be digitally reproduced or may be actual clippings is a defiant test of the
boundaries of object definition and representation, but such a confrontation is taken a step further
in the pop cultural pieces (Clash of the Titans, Free Paris) whereby the mythic grandeur of
personality is shown to be alarmingly inseparable from the (literally) second-hand imagery on the
pages of torn-up tabloids.

BACKGROUND

No subject, no material is off limits: beauty and meaning can be found in any place if one knows
how to look. The keenness of the Rubenstein eye for the scree of the everyday should be no
surprise, however, since it was trained in his hometown of New York, that city in which from an
early age any resident must learn to find their own equilibrium with the intensified flotsam and
jetsam of urban existence; for the past two decades, Rubenstein has been turning that eye to the
land- and cityscapes of southern California, a perfect example of the adopted home seen more
clearly with an outsider's viewpoint. Born in 1955, Rubenstein grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, creating art wherever he could, finding inspiration in the crumbling walls and trash-strewn streets;
he painted nocturnal murals on the sides of buildings and other public spaces, and soaked up the
influence of the detritus of modern city living all around him, learning to find beauty in objects cast
aside, ignored or derided. This early period of Rubenstein's working life, when he was
experimenting restlessly with form and style, fed back on itself in the form of one of his most
remarkable experiments: a feature film script dramatizing his experiences as a young and
struggling artist. It was brought to the screen in 1995 as Bullet, starring academy award winners
Mickey Rourke and Adrien Brody, both collectors of Rubenstein's work. Brody played the young
artist in search of his voice, struggling with his art and a hand-to-mouth existence, and a pair of
deeply troubled brothers, struggling themselves with drugs, the Mob and post-traumatic stress
disorder. This was no glossy Hollywood feel-good growth story, but a depiction of the reality which
informed Rubenstein's education as an artist. It also exists as a perfect iteration of his belief that
art must exist primarily as an emotional reaction to a moment in time, and that it must function as
the encapsulation, transmission and perpetuation of that moment and that emotion: art as truly
indivisible from real life.

For further information, please contact the gallery
Email: c.lurie@luriegallery.com Telephone: 1 (818) 762 1500