Glen Rubsamen

Brändström & Stene

Glen Rubsamen’s exhibition of new work, “A Reassuring Lie Unfolds,” consisted of work in several media: drawing, painting, printmaking, and video. He uses all four to create a hyperreal landscape, documenting man’s attempt to rectify nature. As indicated in an accompanying text, the images depict a scene after a lightning storm in an open field and the subsequent destruction of trees containing storks’ nests. A tower was built and faux nests installed in the hope that the birds would return.

In his first drawing, hanging in the reception area outside the main gallery space, one is introduced to the subject that will be repeated throughout. This artistic form was not conceived for depicting indifference or nothingness, a flatter, more terse and dreary discourse will need to be invented for that (all works 2007) is a highly technical rendition of a sunflower field with a palm tree damaged by lightning and a tower with a bird’s nest. Although the view is depicted as from a distance, every dead sunflower petal, scraggly tangled branch, and wrought-iron crossbar is drawn in extreme detail. Behind the doors, the painting Take All the Time You Need, a single work on five canvases, glows with light and color from the far wall. The sequence of the individual canvases allows a continuation of the black-painted landscape in the low foreground, creating a larger perspective of the scene previously depicted in This artistic form, albeit from a greater distance, while the vibrant backgrounds give a rainbow or halo effect to the work. Each canvas, painted over in layers (which can be seen from the sides), has its own distinctive color—purple, green, blue, red, yellow—which appears strongest at the top. The effect is something like that of a clear sky at sundown that has been infiltrated by smog, causing a fantastic yet ominous twilight. The flow of one color into another somehow seems natural, with the landscape drawing the eye automatically from one canvas to the next.

In the photogravures Chaos a few feet away, A little bioluminescence, and A whole field of my consciousness, the images have more immediacy; the viewpoint is closer, and one almost has to strain to see above the undergrowth. With the sunflowers raised slightly overhead, it’s as if the tree and tower are now being viewed from a crouching position. Whereas the paintings and drawings are about sharp focus, the technique used in these pieces gives them softer contours and a wider range of gray tones. It’s as if these are recollections of paintings, or as if one is seeing them through heavy-lidded, half-open eyes. The video A Reassuring Lie Unfolds is the source from which the drawings, paintings, and photos derive, moving to and from the distant viewing position to actual close-ups of the nest. While waiting for the birds to return, the artist takes us along on his whimsical one-sided cell-phone conversation with an unknown person, who is the fantasy procurer of his assignment. Between the sound of a mobile phone trying to connect with a network, traffic noises, and pulsating music, the viewer is also drawn into the mood of expectation. With empathic relief the viewer shares the artist’s joy when the storks return after what we know to have been a nerve-racking two-week vigil. It is rare to see an exhibition that can unfold a thought so carefully into so many forms, with each piece working individually and at the same time functioning as an indispensable component of the whole.

Amy Simon