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Brian Rutenberg Clear Seeing Place


Brian Rutenberg Clear Seeing Place

April 28 - June 4.2017

LewAllenGalleries Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | info@lewallengalleries.com

cover: Orion (detail), 2017, oil on linen, 60 x 82 in

Brian Rutenberg

Clear Seeing Place

Paint thunders across canvases that flash and crackle with the energy of an electric storm until in the calm of resolve there is, in the final facture, a true clear seeing place. The title of this exhibition of recent work by New York-based abstract painter Brian Rutenberg – also the eponymous title of a memoir by the artist published last year and what he calls a “love letter to painting” – aptly signifies the clarity of vision that runs through these breathtaking oil on linen paintings. It is an awe-inspiring view of nature that is both boundless in its clear-eyed celebration of beauty but also reverential in its devotion to an indeterminacy in the natural world that no man can fully appropriate. It is energizing to view painting that so enthusiastically embraces the beauty of the world, to be enthralled by an art that unabashedly asserts the sheer lusciousness of paint and color, and to have the exhilarating experience of seeing creations of visual grandeur that quite simply engage the eye with pleasure and touch the soul with joy. Such is the work of Brian Rutenberg. There is also something more: deeper contemplation of the work has the added benefit of delivering us from the preoccupation with time that ordinary life seems inevitably to demand and opens the possibility for enrichment of quotidian existence. His paintings are complex, beautiful expositions conjured from harmonious orchestrations of vibrant color, light, and texture. In them, he melds the seen and the imagined into unique visual intuitions about the natural world expressed on canvas to electrify and delight the eye and the mind. Rutenberg creates dazzling responses to nature and place, masterfully converging a unique sense of chromatic abstraction with traces of vaguely familiar landscape elements, compacted into visceral and elegantly structured compositions. Rutenberg’s work is distinguished by a remarkable sense of artistic solidity, a feeling of genuine permanence, of being anchored in true reverence for the aesthetic, undistracted by fad or a desire to be part of some pseudo-avant-garde. In his paintings there is an extraordinary clarity of feeling and an enduring authenticity of expression. His work absorbs our attention and soothes our senses, attaining greatness from the contemplation they inspire rather than the shock created. Mediating realms of outer and inner reality through his art, Rutenberg avidly absorbs the beauty and also the mystery of the natural world and, with luminous intensity, his expression of it transforms observation into pure feeling. His process seems almost alchemical: from the rich physicality of his 2

boldly colored and muscular textured surfaces, one can envision the artist’s poetic ideas melding almost literally with the earth itself to create magical amalgamations of aesthetic treasure laid onto his canvases. Fullness of effect is perhaps the most distinctive quality of painting as an art form. It offers the opportunity for virtuosic confluence of feeling and material, and, as such, is well suited as a vehicle for expression of a sense of visual completeness. Light, shadow, and color – the elements comprising the discernable world – can be made to fluently express ideas and feelings. It is no surprise that painting is an ideal medium for Rutenberg. As an aesthetic mixologist of considerable skill, Rutenberg uses his canvases as the place he can fully converge observation and emotional response into a satisfying sense of richly inflected expressive wholeness. His works are celebratory of painting as an end in itself while also serving to create what he calls “sustained meditations on the sheer transformative power of looking.” Rutenberg takes exuberant rich color, densely painted surface, and vague reference to elements of landscape and combines them within a structural discipline that is not unlike that of a musical score. From this unique mix he expresses his own brimming sense of wonder in the experience of the beauty of nature. His work has been described as “possessing” the landscape, evoking a sense of being in the midst of a place rather than constituting a “picture” of it. One of the most distinctive characteristics of a Rutenberg painting is its quality of participatory feeling rather than detached description. This artist relishes the ambiguity of oblique suggestion and indirection in place of literal depiction and notes that “an eye not told what to see sees more.” Into this mix there also enters what he calls the “third thing.” This is a convergence of the artist and his work – the blending of thought, emotion, material and craft – that in turn can resonate deeply with an observer. Rutenberg recalls that a musical hero, classical pianist Glenn Gould, thought of a similar moment of union between artist, art and audience in music as “ecstasy” and Rutenberg himself calls it “magic.” It is this ultimate consolidation of the artist’s way of seeing and imagining experience of the world, his aspirations for how and what he seeks to represent regarding that experience, and his methods 3

and skills in correlating those things, together comprise the essence of his practice of painting. Brian Rutenberg is extraordinarily aware of the importance of this orchestration and combines intentionality and intuition in order to achieve authenticity and originality in his art. Memories of a beloved childhood spent in the Carolina Lowcountry bears the artist back to connections with the land. These are so deep, so fundamental, that one cannot help but sense a sort of muscle-memory in the sinuous brush work that comprises the textural surfaces of his lush canvases. Though his images are mainly abstract with no particular literal landscape forms to suggest specificity of place, there is nevertheless a majesty to his painting that resolutely connects his work to the grandeur of the American land. That connection emerges from a robust artistic imagination that translates vividly onto canvas via bold color and rhythmic structure, representing one of the most compelling and enthusiastic responses to the land evident among painters inspired by nature. The vivacity of his thinking seems matched only by that of his paintings. In that equivalency there may be a key to understanding why his work is so unfailingly and remarkably compelling and breathtaking. Rutenberg is committed to expressing the physical immediacy of place. He says “Painting is local knowledge,” and connections appear in his work between colors and forms roughly inspired by particular locations. He also seeks for his work to possess a sense of perspectival relationship with his viewer. Many of his canvases are human-sized and structured to correlate with the human body: “I want the bottom to relate to your feet, the middle to relate to your guts, and the top to relate to your head.” Rutenberg puts together these various elements to create paintings in which the whole is vastly greater than the parts. The result is an unmistakable spirit of irrepressible optimism that abides throughout the remarkable quality of expression in his paintings. From eloquently articulate marks and intensely prismatic colors to the hum of light reverberating across his radiant surfaces, Rutenberg conjures visual elation that entertains the gaze, energizes the intellect and refreshes the soul. Life feels better after engagement with a Brian Rutenberg painting and the journey with him to his clear seeing place. Kenneth R. Marvel 4

Orion, 2017, Oil on linen, 60 x 82 in 5

Thicket, 2017, Oil on linen, 52 x 77 in


Rattler, 2017, Oil on linen, 48 x 66 in


Canyon, 2017, Oil on linen, 48 x 66 in 8

Sandspur, 2017, Oil on linen, 60 x 82 in


Hudson, 2017, Oil on linen, 82 x 60 in 10

Hemlock, 2013, Oil on linen, 68 x 55 in 11


Evening Primrose 4, 2011, Oil on linen, 20 x 50 in 13

Pine Lakes 14, 2009, Oil on linen, 36 x 55 in 14

Fringetree, 2013-2014, Oil on linen, 45 x 58 in


Orchard, 2017, Oil on linen, 52 x 77 in 16

Scallop Pond, 2016, Oil on linen, 60 x 82 in


Flower Bed, 2015, Oil on linen, 50 x 38 in


Longleaf, 2013-2014, Oil on linen, 55 x 43 in 19

Spell 2, 2015, Oil on linen, 82 x 60 in


September, 2015, Oil on linen, 58 x 46 in


As I look back on forty years of painting the landscape (I started at age 11), I am reminded of the clear-eyed truth that made me a painter in the first place, my obsession with the physical immediacy of place; as the poet Samuel Menashe wrote, “I am where I go.” American scene painters from the twenties through the fifties were guided by what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz referred to as “local knowledge” and based much of their philosophy on the belief that “To know a city is to know its streets.” Painting is local knowledge; it is the evidence of its creation; eternally in the present tense. I have been transfixed by the American Southwest for as far back as I can remember, and have filled many sketchbooks with drawings and gouaches during my travels. I’ve studied the paintings of Agnes Pelton and Raymond Jonson for their liquid light, admired William Lumpkin’s for his rigorous command of foreground, and was bewitched by the crisp desert light of Karl Benjamin and the Abstract Classicists. In preparing this body of work, I relied heavily on Benjamin’s color palette of egg yolk, cool violet, raspberry, and sap green. In my paintings, broad passages of saturated color flanked by intimate brush marks suggest the same rapid shifts in scale and orientation that I experience when driving alone through sheets of pale desert. Then, I turn on the radio, AM band. Driving and dialing. Suddenly the vastness becomes local again. As I see it, my job is to construct a cosmos while standing on a postage stamp, but first I must be where I go. Painting should nail your foot to the floor so that you spend your entire life going around in a tiny circle. At the center of that circle is one question: Are you making art or are you manufacturing a state of lucidity and trying to keep it around for as long as possible? It has taken me many decades to see what was there all along; to paint the landscape you must sit with your back to the window. Brian Rutenberg, New York City, 2017


Brian Rutenberg

b. 1965

EDUCATION 1989 MFA, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY 1987 BFA, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2017 Clear Seeing Place, LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM 2016 Peter Marcelle Project, Southampton, NY Bannister Gallery, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI 2015 TEW Gallery, Atlanta, GA 2014 Forum Gallery, New York, NY Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit, MA 2012 Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC 2011 TEW Galleries, Atlanta, GA Franklin G. Burroughs – Simeon B. Chapin Art Musuem, Myrtle Beach, SC The Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA Forum Gallery, New York, NY 2009 Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC 2008 Forum Gallery, New York, NY Toomey-Tourell Gallery, San Francisco, CA 2007 Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory, NC Galerie Timothy Tew, Atlanta, GA 2006 South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC David Lusk Gallery, Memphis, TN 2005 Forum Gallery, New York, NY 2004 Cress Gallery of Art, University of Tennessee Chattanooga, TN 2003 John Raimondi Gallery, Vitale, Caturano & Co., Boston, MA Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC 2002 Forum Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Tippy-Stern Fine Art, Charleston, SC The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, Colorado Springs, CO 2001 Butler Institute of American Art, Warren, OH Hidell-Brooks Gallery, Charlotte, NC 2000 Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin, Ireland Schmidt-Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Toomey-Tourell Gallery, San Francisco, CA 1999 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Gallery, Toronto, Canada Hidell Brooks Gallery, Charlotte, NC

Burroughs-Chapin Museum of Art, Myrtle Beach, SC University of South Carolina-Beaufort, SC Schmidt/Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York, NY Halsey Gallery, College of Charleston, SC National Library of Canada, Glenn Gould Exhibition Website, Ottawa, Canada Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York, NY Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, NC David Klein Gallery, Birmingham, MI Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC Fridholm Gallery, Asheville, NC

AWARDS 2004 Fellowship in Painting, New York Foundation for the Arts 2000 Peter S. Reed Foundation Award 1997 Fulbright Scholarship Artists Work Programme Studio Grant, Irish Museum of Modern Art 1991 Basil Alkazzi Award USA Ragdale Foundation Fellowship 1988 MFA Scholarship Award, School of Visual Arts 1987 Laura Bragg Memorial Award MUSEUM COLLECTIONS Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY Asheville Museum of Art, Asheville, NC Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL Burroughs-Chapin Museum of Art, Myrtle Beach, SC Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory, NC Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA Naples Art Museum, Naples, FL Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY Ogden Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA St. John’s Museum of Art, Wilmington, NC Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH 23



Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 www.lewallengalleries.com | info@lewallengalleries.com Š 2017 LewAllen Contemporary LLC Artwork Š Brian Rutenberg

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Brian Rutenberg: Clear Seeing Place  

Brian Rutenberg: Clear Seeing Place