In this debut chronicle, an abstract painter offers a vivid look into a working studio and the development of his own artistic vision.
To many nonartists, abstract art may seem to be the most inaccessible of all forms, as it often lacks familiar images to cling to. To Rutenberg, however, abstraction represents a way of bringing the world up-close, so that one not only sees, but feels its integral parts. “Art happens,” Rutenberg states, “when the intellectual and the visceral collide so violently that they fuse into a third thing.” His love of art is palpable in this book, which serves as a companion piece to his YouTube series, “Brian Rutenberg Studio Visits.” He only sparsely describes the events of his own life, but he lavishly and lovingly dissects his growth as an artist, from his childhood compositions, created out of marsh mud and colored paper on hot summer days on the South Carolina coast, to later canvases that he stabbed with an ice pick in his loft studio in Manhattan. Alongside this deeply personal story, Rutenberg also offers a down-to-earth course on the transcendent power of art, presenting a wide range of examples, including works by Pablo Picasso and pianist Glenn Gould. The text is peppered with memorable passages, such as “All artists live in the gap between what they imagine and produce,” “When the effortless appears difficult, it’s entertainment. When the difficult appears effortless, it’s art,” and “An artist’s job is to monkey with stuff. We don’t seek solutions but problems. We play because we can.” Rutenberg’s love of his work is infectious, and his analyses of artistic issues are engaging and appealing, never indulging in the elitism that some may associate with the world of fine art. His delight in his chosen craft also counters the myth of the tortured artist, although a slightly less rosy perspective and a few more details about life’s challenges might have added a welcome touch of realism. All in all, however, it’s an exhilarating treatise on how to really “see” the world.
An original and stimulating memoir that takes readers into the mind and heart of an artist.