The recent work of Berlin-based artist, Benjamin Rubloff (b.1975 in New York) engages with the history of abstract painting. In the current show, he quotes two modes of abstraction—minimalism and gestural expressionism— upending them through plays-of-hand that challenge our expectations about modernist painting. Working closely from photographic source material, the artist creates meticulous transcriptions of found painting „situations”. For his first solo show with Assembly Gallery, he is presenting two projects, the installation 'Victory over the Sun' (1915-2015) and recent graffiti-based paintings, entitled 'Ciphers' (2018).
The installation, 'Victory over the Sun' (1915-2015), is a response to Kasimir Malevich’s groundbreaking 1915 exhibition, The Last Futurist Exhibition 0,10, in which Malevich presented a revolutionary approach to painting that manifested as spiritually-charged minimalist abstraction. In the current installation—which echoes Malevich’s original salon hanging--the artist has painted 1:1 scaled depictions of Malevich’s paintings, leaving their surfaces blank. With Malevich’s well-known motifs effectively erased, the installation creates a void that draws awareness to the paintings' context, framing and objecthood. This creates a playful Matroyoshka doll effect, in which the painting-of-a-painting illuminates the role that spectacle and staging play for historicized artworks in museum settings.
The recent work, 'Ciphers', first appear as gestural abstract paintings. Their tightly orchestrated affect stems from a dynamic figure-ground interplay in which solid gestural marks hover over ephemeral, ghostly grounds. Upon closer look, the paintings reveal that they are not gestural paintings but rather the result of a slow, deliberate process of copying. In actuality, the paintings are transcriptions of the speedy gestures of graffiti taggers. The carefully cropping of these fragments effectively free the paintings from easy identification, allowing the works to become conversant with historical languages of painterly abstraction. In this way, the works call attention to painting's fetish for gesture and the prevalence of color-field atmospheres that suggest the metaphysical. Though the idea of gestural expression is undermined by the fact of the copy, subjectivity is reinscribed into each of the works through the addition of artist writings and photographic documentations that address the role that these tags, as traces, play as quotidian markers in urban life.