INTO THE VOID – Cynthia Beth Rubin

The Jewish Art Salon and the Kraft Center present:

CBRubin-Ceratium1-2012Into the Void: Digital Images, Paintings, Video 

Exhibition by Cynthia Beth Rubin 

Curated by Yona Verwer

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

6:00-7:30 PM – Reception

7:30-8:15 PM – Discussion Imagery After Abstraction: Filling the Void

Panelists Helene Aylon, Elisa Decker, Bruria Finkel and Cynthia Beth Rubin.

Moderated by Debra Zarlin Edelman, Chair of the Arts Advisory Board at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Jewish Museum Exhibition Committee Board.

Columbia / Barnard Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life

606 West 115 Street, New York, NY 10025

Dates: January 27 – March 15, 2013

Hours: Sunday – Thursday 9:00 – 21:00, Friday 9:00 – 13:00.

This exhibit presents new works focused on explorations of the world of ocean plankton, framed by a mini-retrospective dating back to 1984 and the early days of digital art, thereby contextualizing the career of this new media artist whose imagery developed in tandem with the technology of our time.

Curated by Yona Verwer of the Jewish Art Salon, Rubin’s work brings a different perspective to the age-old question: What is Jewish Art? In 1983, inspired by research into non-Western art by artists ranging from Claude Monet to Mimi Schapiro, Rubin made a conscious decision to seek out traditional Jewish art as influence.

Prompted by an exhibition of Hebrew Manuscripts at New York’s Jewish Museum, her focus on the varied European and North African manuscripts led her to research trips to England, France, Italy, and Israel, where, as one of the first artists making such a request, she was permitted access to original works. In Marseilles, France, since she was one of a very few researchers who had ever asked to see a 1260 Hebrew Bible from Toledo, Spain, Rubin was permitted to photograph the Bible, rather than merely draw it. Since then she has repeatedly turned to the surviving two volumes of the illuminated Marseilles Bible as source material.

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Approaching Hebrew manuscripts as a non-Biblical scholar, and steeped in her training as an abstract painter, Rubin focused on the visual compositional elements. The borders and commentaries of the traditional texts provided a conceptual model for breaking the single image frame of painting. The use of flowers and other natural form freed her to think like an abstract painter while using playful recognizable forms.

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Rubin also took inspiration from the abstract decorative elements, which travelers know are often echoed in the architectural decor of the place in which they were created. Eventually this reference to architecture evolved to include reference to the experience of place, and the imagined memories of those who occupied the spaces of history. This shift coincided with the advent of easily accessible scanning and digital photography, which today’s viewer’s might be surprised to discover were not part of the early days of pre-Photoshop digital art.

By the mid-1990’s, Rubin was making complex layered and conceptually framed still images, videos, and inter-active works imagining the memories, thoughts, and feelings of those who went before us. Most frequently based on sites of Jewish history, Rubin also responded to the experience of visiting a former Mosque in Spain, Buddhist Temples in Japan, and an abandoned Cathedral in Scotland. Her video produced during a 1994 artist residency at Videochroniques in Marseilles, les affinities récouvrées, was shown around the world, including Opening Night of both the Boston and San Francisco Jewish Film Festivals. The interactive work, Layered Histories, produced in collaboration with the composer Bob Gluck, was featured at the Jewish Museum in Prague in 2005, as well as at numerous international festivals and other venues. Her inter-active web work Memoirs, one of Rhizome’s “site of the day” in 1999, and featured internationally, demonstrates her explorations of place.

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In the spring of 2012 Rubin began collaborating with the Susanne Menden-Deuer lab in Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, where scientists study plankton. The resulting Plankton Portraits infuse a spirituality into the microscopic world of the generally unseen, tiniest form of life on the food chain. Presented as both still images and video these works, at first glance, seem to be a departure from the Jewish source material of Rubin’s past. For the careful viewer, however, the, rich backgrounds and extensive enhancement of the rather colorless microscope captures reveal a compositional interplay that stretches back to the experiments based on manuscripts, and a sense “cultural memory” attributed to the tiny life forms that have no known culture or memory, transforming them into what we do know that they are: an essential part of our natural world deserving of attention and empathy.

Rubin’s digital images and “moving paintings” have been featured in exhibitions around the world, including shows in France, Siberia, Canada, and Brazil. Her work is featured in a number of articles and books, including The Art of the Digital Age, by Bruce Wands, Painting the Digital River, by James Faure Walker, and The Computer in the Visual Arts, by Anne Morgan Spalter. Her work is represented in the collections of the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester, NY, the DeCordoba Museum in Massachusetts, and the AT&T corporate collection. She is represented by the Oxford Gallery in Rochester.

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