As often as was the case during Couture Collections in Paris, dinner was eaten very late by American standards. That night, dinner was being held at the home of renowned beauty photographer Andre Rau, in Neuilly, and as usual, we somehow all found our way to the kitchen. It was there that I saw the most extraordinary man slicing garlic.
I FELT AS THOUGH I WAS LOOKING
AT A MAN WHO STEPPED OUT OF TIME.
Since I spoke little French, and he little English, guests translated between us. This anachronistic man was Ruben Alterio.
That spring back in Paris, I had the great treat of visiting Ruben’s studio. After that visit, I was truly convinced he was sent from another time. I had spent decades walking through studios, sets and locations, but I had never walked through anything like this one. Being my first visit and trying to stay composed, it took every ounce of control to not remove my shoes just so my bare feet could feel and absorb the floors. Renoir had painted here.
It was Ruben’s, of course. The fashion world had quietly been collecting Ruben’s work. The next fall Neiman Marcus would commission Ruben to paint the collections, which ran as its own portfolio in W magazine. Over the years, back and forth from Paris shooting, I came to know Ruben and his amazing partner Priscilla, but more importantly, I made him a promise that I am now able to fulfill many years later.
Those lucky enough to visit Ruben Alterio in his atelier along the Boulevard de Rochechouart will find themselves dwarfed by the plethora of large canvasses that greet you; taken aback by the shock of red -the fire, the passion, la sangre- the life that exudes from his paintings.
FOR RUBEN, TO BE, IS TO PAINT.
The creative process is visceral and his eyes light up as he describes himself being inside each painting. He invites you too to step inside as he holds a magnifying glass up to the life of each brushstroke.
The works explore the very essence of painting. Each represents an abstraction towards discovery of the language of the paintbrush. Each fibre, each oscillation in Ruben’s broad homemade brush is visible in the brushstroke imprinted on the canvas. Bold and raw, yet also supple and lithe, these brushstrokes flow sinuously across the surface. The aqueous quality of the paint and the uneven coverage of the trace create a series of transparencies, layers, depths and movements which foreground the aesthetic potential of this act. Ruben describes the final brushstroke as a ‘breeze’ –‘un viento’- that skates across the surface and instils a final coating of movement.
Neither are the colors static. He sullies them on the palate and they vibrate, creating noise on the canvas. Their livid quality brings the shapes and forms to life as they play a game of shadow and light.
Via this reflexive element to his art, Ruben winks rather cheekily at the observer. The organic quality of his style often gives the impression of a work yet to be finished.
He teases the viewer, tantalises them with an open-frame composition that exceeds both the spatial and conceptual limits of representation.
HE DEFIES THE ONLOOKER’S IMAGINATION TO BECOME CO-CREATOR AND COMPLETE THE PAINTERLY PROCESS.
Many of Ruben’s works are composed of three elements. Yet despite the tension created by the asymmetries of a prime number and the intrusion of a disruptive element in the harmony of a pair, an atmosphere of serenity pervades over the discord.
Ruben Alterio 21 Crowns
July 1 – August 10
Artist Reception July 30, 5-7PM
THIS IS RUBEN ALTERIO’S FIRST SHOW IN NORTH AMERICA
Preview his show
100T – Mixed medium on canvas, 64x52 in
Crown – Mixed medium on canvas, 52x64 in
Kenya – Mixed medium on canvas, 52x64 in