All Articles
All Articles

David Reuben: "Kings & Corpses"

The British painter's colorful yet macabre US gallery debut

by David Graver
on 17 October 2013
davidreuben-0a.jpg davidreuben-0b.jpg

On 22 October, fine artist and filmmaker David King Reuben will make his US debut at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel in Chelsea, NYC. The show will feature his large-scale, figure-focused paintings paired with photographer Dominic White's black and white photos. Reuben's engrossing work swells with color trapped within form. Highly textured; with layered oil, acrylic and spray-paint on canvas, there's an abundance of life in each character he envisions.


Although the works were made between a studio in Manhattan's West Village and a workspace residence in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Reuben's roots formed within a cabalistic Jewish community in Northwest London—where his grandfather was Rabbi. "I was very Orthodox as a kid. It was the only world I knew and I thought to be the best within it," Reuben explains. It wasn't until his teens that he grew rebellious. "Whenever I had concerns I spoke to the Rabbi's wife, my grandmother. I was away with friends during Shabbat and my grandmother stayed with my family. She died of a heart attack in my bed while I was away. When I returned the next day, I found out that she had been laying in my bed, deceased, the entire day while my family mourned over her." It was after this incident that Reuben made his first painting.

The image within was an aggressive attack upon religion, which Reuben's father wanted him to destroy. "I hid it and kept painting, until they couldn't be hidden anymore." His mother offered Reuben a room in the back of the house, previously reserved for Judaic study, to use as his first studio. "I painted to find my own identity and to break out of the world. I felt like I had to fight for everyone. Still I paint to find identity." Reuben also observes that "the struggle isn't the same, but it is striving for an idealized beauty within identity." This birthed the name King with a realization "that we could be our own king, king of our future—beyond a small northwest London world." Reuben began signing his work with King; an adopted middle name.

davidreuben-2a.jpg davidreuben-2b.jpg

Some of Reuben's paintings have taken over three years to complete. Rather than start with an idea for execution, he describes the process as "a transformation of internal search for self—as I find myself, the paintings find themselves." On the nature of his character studies, he notes, "That's why you'll find so many characters; we are so many characters—constantly changing and evolving and growing." Each painting is layer upon layer of process and development. "If I were only to put one layer—which could look good aesthetically—it would not be truthful to me. It hasn't gone through the search."

davidreuben-3a.jpg davidreuben-3b.jpg

Most of the paintings featured at the exhibition utilize a simple, one-color background because "the external side of the world is a uniform onslaught. It's an overwhelming brightness. I am concerned with what falls in between the figure; the darker complexity." This is represented in the show's name two-fold: "I settled upon the name 'Kings & Corpses' because Dominic's Cuba photos portray many of these corpse-like photographic frames but trapped within, you've got stately, elegant cars from the 1940s. Everyone is poor—sitting on the side of the street without shoes—yet beside these glorious chariots." This manifests in Reuben's work as well, as "a lot of the figures that I do have a skeletal-like feeling, and it is the process of finding the powerful existence within. All kings will die, but I thought it would be interesting to portray the dual self, where we are everything and nothing." His figures portray the power of a king and the recognition that we are all destined for the same demise.

davidreuben-4a.jpg davidreuben-4b.jpg

Beyond the substance, even his materials play with impending death: "I manipulate archivability, using supplies in some paintings that can deteriorate over time. It challenges the idea that a painting is only valuable if it is the same forever. We won't be the same forever." Whether blending caulk with oils or spritzing acid onto a section, he denies our efforts to preserve. "We try. We try to stay young. We are trying to fool death, but in reality, it gets you." "Kings & Corpses" opens on 22 October 2013 at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, from 6:30 P.M. to 10 P.M.

Image of artist courtesy of Max Montgomery, other images courtesy of David King Reuben

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring
Loading More...