Dramatically interweaving gestural abstraction with sewn fabrics, Heather Rubinstein’s paintings draw on a diverse range of influences — from the densely-patterned interiors of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, to classic abstractions of Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly, and deconstructive 1970s painters such as Alan Shields and Claude Viallat. As has been her practice for several years, the artist sources her materials exclusively from thrift stores: utilizing bed sheets, duvets, linens, drapes, crochets, cheap designer scarves, women’s business jackets, and other unidentifiable discards, often redolent of the 1970s and 1980s, the period of the artist’s childhood. These paintings assimilate painted passages and found textiles, recto and verso surfaces, suspended sweeping brush strokes, and transparent layers of interwoven texture and thread.
In several of the paintings, Rubinstein carefully glues hundreds of tiny pieces of sewing clippings, thread and painting remnants onto her bold gestural compositions, coaxing from the painting a luscious dimensionality. What is achieved through the confrontation of all these techniques, materials and influences is a dark lyricism, a visual expression of loss, love, trauma, uncertainty, defiance, exhilaration. The High Violet body of work is taken from a 2010 album by the New York band The National: just as their highly-textured music and poignant lyrics convey a surging melancholy, so do these paintings seek to convey the same uneasy, cinematic-like portent: a storm coming in from the northwest; the eerie sound of wind blowing against the metallic roof and weather making itself known just outside the windows of the artist’s studio. Not unlike an album, Rubinstein’s work wavers from seemingly confession to bursts of self-confidence and resolve. The gathered nuance of these paintings reveal a similar intimacy, a specific nostalgia, and the rhythmic tone of a rich studio practice.
Heather Bause Rubinstein (b.1975 Englewood, New Jersey) is a Professor of Painting, Art History and Design. Originally from New Jersey, she was raised in Houston, Texas, where she earned both her BFA and MFA in Painting and Art History from the University of Houston, Texas. Her exhibitions include, among others, “High Violet” at McClain Gallery in Houston, Texas, "The Miraculous: Houston", a public text-based art installation across the entire 600-acre campus at the University of Houston, Texas; and the installation, "Wallpaper/Art" at The Art League, Houston, Texas. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions in Houston: McClain Gallery, Devin Borden Gallery, Zoya Tommy Gallery, Gallery Homeland, the Blaffer Museum, Clarke and Associates, Darke Gallery, RedBud Gallery; and throughout the United States: Galleri Urbane, Dallas,Texas; the Diary in Colorado; Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Greece; Pierogi Gallery, New York; Site Brooklyn, New York; and MANA Contemporary in New York, New York.