Gideon Rubin

Texts by Gabriel Coxhead, Martin Herbert, Aya Lurie, Sarah Suzuki

Coinciding with a touring exhibition of paintings and works on paper, this book is the first monograph on the acclaimed young Israeli painter Gideon Rubin.

After witnessing the events of 9/11 in New York first hand, Rubin turned his back on his realist way of working and embarked on a method that has become his signature style. Taking found images of strangers in twentieth-century family albums, newspapers, and magazines, he begins a process of visual reduction and obliteration that culminates in an eerie and compelling body of work that is at once enticing and poignant, seductive yet sinister. His small and intimate portraits of faceless figures, full of life but empty of expression, are charming and chilling in equal measure. They unsettle and unnerve, yet feel strangely familiar.

His tiny paintings on cardboard of blank-faced models, actors, pop stars, and politicians – from Che Guevara and Dominique Strauss-Kahn to Amy Winehouse and Cheryl Cole – all reduced to a generic equivalence and interchangeability, comment on the ephemeral nature of the news and the newsworthy and the disposability of our celebrity age.

These are works that evoke the selective and transformative processes of memory, but by drawing on Chinese propaganda pamphlets, celebrity magazines, the society pages of newspapers, as well as art history, they also lay bare the shared shorthands through which personality and desire are projected and read. In the age of Instagram and selfies, they remind us that photography, far from an unmediated and direct reflection of reality, is at its core unstable and subject to manipulation, be it in the interests of politics, commerce or diversion.

This exquisite book features high-quality reproductions of dozens of works and numerous photographs of the artist and the studio. Four international writers examine how Rubin both challenges and extends the traditions of European painted portraiture. They also consider how he employs the ancient and articulate medium of oil paint to stake a claim for the renewed relevance and enduring value of the hand-crafted picture, and to question the relative status of photography as the supposed carrier of ‘truth’.

Gideon Rubin is an Israeli artist based in London. He received his BFA from School of Visual Arts in New York and his MFA from Slade School of Art in London. He has had numerous international solo exhibitions and appeared in many group shows around the world, and his works are included in private collections in London, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and elsewhere. In 2014, he was awarded the Shifting Foundation Grant and spent time at the Da Wang Culture Highland artist residency near Shenzhen, China. In 2013, he undertook the Outset Israel Bialik Residency in Tel Aviv. He is represented by Galerie Karsten Greve Paris, Cologne and St Moritz; Rokeby, London; Hosfelt Gallery, San Franscisco; and Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv.

Gabriel Coxhead is a writer, art critic and curator based in London. He is a regular contributor to Time Out London and has also written for the Guardian, Jewish Quarterly, Financial Times, Art Review and Cabinet magazine, among other publications.

Martin Herbert is a writer and critic based in Tunbridge Wells and Berlin. He is associate editor of Art Review and Modern Painters, and writes regularly for Art Monthly, Artforum and Frieze. He is the author of Mark Wallinger (T&H, 2011).

Aya Lurie is Director and Chief Curator of Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Herzliya, Israel.

Sarah Suzuki is an associate curator in the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, Museum of Modern Art, New York.