Elaine Rubenoff – Oleander

Opening: Friday, Feb 22, 2019 5 – 8 pm
Friday, Feb 22 – Mar 23, 2019

325 W. Huron
Chicago, IL 60654

Elaine Rubenoff

Through​ ​the​ ​use​ ​of​ ​image,​ ​line​ ​and​ ​color,​ ​Rubenoff​ ​explores​ ​ideas​ ​of vulnerability,​ ​pain​ ​and​ ​pleasure.​ ​The​ ​representation​ ​of​ ​flowers​ ​is​ ​a​ ​reoccuring​ ​symbol​ ​in her​ ​paintings,​ ​utilizing​ ​their​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​illustrate​ ​history,​ ​ideals​ ​of​ ​beauty,​ ​vitality, mourning​ ​and​ ​loss.​ ​Her​ ​work​ ​exists​ ​in​ ​a​ ​tenuous​ ​space​ ​between​ ​the​ ​ubiquitous​ ​and​ ​the highly​ ​personal.​ ​The​ ​bold​ ​and​ ​unapologetic​ ​rendering​ ​of​ ​this​ ​subject​ ​acts​ ​as​ ​both​ ​a​ ​form of​ ​empowerment​ ​and​ ​an​ ​embrace​ ​of​ ​vulnerability.​ ​Her​ ​subject​ ​matter​ ​reflects​ ​the​ ​labor, the​ ​imagined​ ​tactility​ ​and​ ​sexuality​ ​of​ ​gardens.​ ​Rubenoff​ ​uses​ ​the​ ​romantic​ ​and​ ​enduring language​ ​of​ ​flowers​ ​to​ ​consider​ ​the​ ​history​ ​of​ ​these​ ​culturally​ ​weighted​ ​symbols​ ​and​ ​their underestimated​ ​potency.

Abstract​ ​renderings​ ​of​ ​flowers​ ​are​ ​painted​ ​directly​ ​onto​ ​raw​ ​canvas,​ ​infusing​ ​the​ ​pigment into​ ​the​ ​surface.​ ​The​ ​stained​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​Rubenoff’s​ ​paintings​ ​directly​ ​reference​ ​watercolor and​ ​fight​ ​their​ ​expected​ ​production​ ​in​ ​size​ ​and​ ​surface.​ ​Anemone,​ ​Lily​ ​of​ ​the​ ​valley, Daffodil,​ ​Pansies,​ ​Heliotrope​ ​are​ ​all​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​a​ ​melodic​ ​composition​ ​leading​ ​the​ ​eye towards​ ​an​ ​abstraction​ ​of​ ​flower​ ​parts​ ​blending​ ​together​ ​and​ ​alluding​ ​to​ ​the​ ​sexual process​ ​of​ ​cross​ ​pollination. The​ ​use​ ​of​ ​an​ ​easily​ ​deprecated​ ​medium​ ​brought​ ​to​ ​a​ ​large scale​ ​and​ ​stretching​ ​its​ ​limits​ ​becomes​ ​a​ ​statement​ ​of​ ​overcoming​ ​expectation.

Conceptually,​ ​Rubenoff’s​ ​method​ ​of​ ​painting​ ​runs​ ​parallel​ ​to​ ​the​ ​physicality​ ​of gardening.​ ​She​ ​is​ ​constantly​ ​adding/planting,​ ​subtracting/​ ​pruning​ ​and​ ​building​ ​off​ ​pre existing​ ​relationships.​ ​Due​ ​to​ ​the​ ​nature​ ​of​ ​the​ ​watery​ ​medium​ ​she​ ​employs,​ ​it​ ​is necessary​ ​for​ ​her​ ​to​ ​paint​ ​on​ ​the​ ​floor,​ ​otherwise​ ​the​ ​pigment​ ​would​ ​roll​ ​off​ ​the​ ​canvas. She​ ​often​ ​kneels​ ​next​ ​to​ ​or​ ​stands​ ​above​ ​the​ ​paintings​ ​as​ ​she​ ​works,​ ​making​ ​her​ ​body​ ​an integral​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​production.​ ​Although​ ​she​ ​starts​ ​with​ ​a​ ​plan,​ ​Rubenoff​ ​is​ ​receptive​ ​to the​ ​possibility​ ​of​ ​the​ ​unanticipated​ ​within​ ​the​ ​development​ ​of​ ​each​ ​canvas,​ ​much​ ​like how​ ​a​ ​garden​ ​is​ ​affected​ ​by​ ​weather​ ​and​ ​the​ ​inevitability​ ​of​ ​time.

The​ ​medium​ ​of​ ​watercolor​ ​has​ ​greatly​ ​influenced​ ​Rubenoff’s​ ​work​ ​in​ ​that​ ​it​ ​contains​ ​a vast​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​historic​ ​and​ ​conceptual​ ​meaning.​ ​Throughout​ ​history​ ​watercolor​ ​has​ ​been looked​ ​at​ ​as​ ​a​ ​stereotypically​ ​feminine​ ​medium,​ ​characteristic​ ​of​ ​preliminary​ ​work/ studies​ ​but​ ​never​ ​realized​ ​as​ ​having​ ​the​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​stand​ ​up​ ​against​ ​the​ ​masculine​ ​power​ ​of oil​ ​paint.​ ​The​ ​process​ ​of​ ​utilizing​ ​these​ ​cultural​ ​tropes​ ​while​ ​embracing​ ​a​ ​historically craft-based​ ​medium​ ​creates​ ​within​ ​Rubenoff​ ​an​ ​awareness​ ​of​ ​her​ ​vulnerability.​ ​In​ ​turn, this​ ​situates​ ​her​ ​at​ ​a​ ​place​ ​where​ ​she​ ​can​ ​offer​ ​valid​ ​critique​ ​and​ ​ask​ ​meaningful questions.​ ​

Rubenoff​ ​speaks​ ​to​ ​the​ ​common​ ​prejudice​ ​that​ ​a​ ​fluid​ ​or​ ​soft​ ​thing​ ​such​ ​as watercolor​ ​can’t​ ​be​ ​powerful.​ ​In​ ​line​ ​with​ ​the​ ​characteristics​ ​of​ ​a​ ​flower,​ ​she​ ​generates paintings​ ​that​ ​are​ ​both​ ​soft​ ​and​ ​loud.

Rubenoff​ ​sees​ ​her​ ​use​ ​of​ ​flower​ ​iconography​ ​and​ ​the​ ​medium​ ​of​ ​watercolor​ ​as​ ​a​ ​direct embrace​ ​of​ ​femininity​ ​and​ ​feminism.​ ​To​ ​Rubenoff​ ​there​ ​is​ ​no​ ​dichotomy​ ​in​ ​sensitivity and​ ​power.​ ​The​ ​absorbent​ ​surface​ ​alludes to​ ​the​ ​notion​ ​of​ ​vulnerability,​ ​of​ ​being​ ​raw and subjected to​ ​judgment.

Rubenoff​ ​works​ ​with​ ​paintings​ ​of​ ​a​ ​large​ ​scale.​ ​Her​ ​typical​ ​canvas​ ​is​ ​15’​ ​long​ ​by​ ​6’​ ​high. The​ ​use​ ​of​ ​a​ ​large​ ​scale​ ​engages​ ​the​ ​viewer​ ​in​ ​a​ ​physical​ ​relationship​ ​with​ ​the​ ​painting, and​ ​provides​ ​an​ ​enhanced​ ​experience.​ ​Rubenoff​ ​sees​ ​this​ ​physical​ ​relationship​ ​of​ ​one’s body​ ​to​ ​her​ ​paintings​ ​as​ ​having​ ​a​ ​direct​ ​conversation​ ​with​ ​similar​ ​aspects​ ​in​ ​the minimalist​ ​canon​ ​of​ ​the​ ​60’s​ ​and​ ​70’s.

Elaine​ ​Rubenoff​ ​is​ ​an​ ​artist​ ​and​ ​educator​ ​based​ ​in​ ​Chicago,​ ​IL.​ ​She​ ​received​ ​her​ ​MFA​ ​in Painting​ ​and​ ​Drawing​ ​from​ ​the​ ​School​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Art​ ​Institute​ ​of​ ​Chicago​ ​(SAIC)​ ​and​ ​her​ ​BA in​ ​Studio​ ​Art​ ​from​ ​Framingham​ ​State​ ​University.​ ​She​ had her first solo exhibition in November of 2017 at Randy Alexander Gallery in Chicago and has ​participated​ ​in​ ​numerous​ ​group exhibitions​ ​since​ ​2013.​ ​This​ ​past​ ​spring​ ​and​ ​summer​ ​Rubenoff​ ​received​ ​the​ ​Carrie​ ​Ellen Tuttle​ ​Fellowship​ ​Award​ ​for​ ​Painting,​ ​and​ ​she​ ​presented​ ​at​ ​the​ ​HFBK​ ​250t​h​​ ​Anniversary in​ ​Hamburg,​ ​Germany.​ ​She​ ​currently​ ​teaches​ ​with​ ​CAPE,​ ​the​ ​Chicago​ ​Arts​ ​Partnerships in​ ​Education​ ​Program.