WATCHING YOU GROW - Acrylic 36" x 48"

Anya Rubin’s Paintings Explore Issues of Human Interconnectedness

Written by: Wilson Wong


A singular synthesis of humanistic and formal factors enlivens the art of Anya Rubin, a Russian-born painter presently living and working in New Jersey, at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from September 28 through October 18. (Reception Thursday, October 4, 6 to 8 PM.)

One of the paintings that best reveals Rubin's ability to meld abstract and figurative elements is the acrylic composition that Rubin calls "Watching You Grow." Here, the almost ghostly figure of a woman gazing fondly on a row of three plants is superimposed over a grid of subtly modulated red, green, blue, and yellow hues that serve as a formal armature for the subject matter. The device of superimposition has been employed by a wide range of artists over the decades, ranging from Francis Picabia to David Salle; however, few have integrated disparate elements so successfully. For not only do the sinuous shapes of the plants and flowers harmonize with the squares that adhere them to the picture plane by virtue of Rubin's skillful handling of complementary chromatic qualities, but the picture's formal attributes enhance its emotional resonance by contributing to its serene mood. Obviously, these plants that she regards so fondly are vital to the woman's well-being and the feeling that she has created an orderly private world within the larger world's chaos and uncertainty.

A more metaphysical visual metaphor for harmony comes across in a composition in oil and mixed media that Rubin calls "Artist at Work." Here, the figure of the female artist emerges from a deep blue ground in a manner that recalls both the linear fluidity and the haunted nocturnal atmospheres of Edvard Munch. This is one of Rubin's most overtly Expressionistic paintings, and yet it also contains an element of surrealism. As she raises her hand to the canvas that one can only assume exists (for while its contours are swallowed by the shadowy blue background, gracefully delineated abstract shapes are clearly visible against the surrounding darkness), the artist's forearm morphs into the miniature yet full length figure of a man. Other figures and faces as well swirl within the folds of her colorful garment as, suggesting that her creations form the true substance of her existence. Figures within figures are a recurring motif in Rubin's work, appearing again in "Letting Go," another work in oil and mixed media, where the shapely figure of a kneeling woman appears simultaneously nude and cloaked in a colorful swarm of smaller figurative forms. At the same time, other small semi-abstract figures, independent of the central figure, cavort nearby, as though inviting her to join them in a communal dance. But although she evinces interest and even appears amused at the activities of the others, the main figure remains aloof, monumental, perhaps suggesting (as the title hints) that it is necessary to let go of certain human involvements in order to be an observer and a true creator.

That Anya Rubin, an artist who appears haunted by the spiritual meaning of our innate interconnectedness, raises such questions, without attempting to answer them in some pathway, makes her work philosophically, as well as aesthetically, intriguing.

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