Haunting, Ambiguous Works Contrast Across Dimensions

by Anna Warner

The Weatherspoon Art Museum is hosting an exhibition featuring sculptures and drawings from artist Nancy Rubins who is known for her three-dimensional depiction of expansion and her sharp cut drawings placed hauntingly in such a way that makes one feel half curious, half appalled. She creates sculptures through the use of large and small pieces of boats and airplanes. Some brief silent films by Michael Rudnick included in the exhibition show Rubins’ work in action in places such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Paris, Buffalo, and Las Vegas.

The names of Rubins’ works are anything but mainstream; ambiguity is an understatement when it comes to the labels beneath the sculptures and drawings. In fact, there are no names assigned to her art; a form of mystery that adds to her depictions of augmented life inside the four walls of a building. The so called names of her work consists of “Drawing, 2010” and “Drawing, 1994.” When you walk in, the walls are bare, except for the black graphite drawings placed around the exhibition. The gallery has the darkness outlining the walls, but not in a way that would make a bored teenager pass by without gazing at the drawings. While these seem to be merely black pieces of paper, the cut of the paper resembles the edges of a ripped out grocery list; the edges are jagged and rough as if you might paper cut yourself just by looking too hard. The strokes are fast and abrupt like the anger of a midnight thunderstorm.

Some of these drawings are flat on the wall in a traditional pose, however there are some of these black drawings that are scattered around in a flowing manner, which gives the viewer a sensation of movement. “Drawing 2000” seems the eeriest to me; pinned in the corner of the ceiling, the black sketch is sitting like a woman who crawls up the wall in a psychotic exorcism movie. But there is beauty in the strokes that alleviates the goose bumps you feel at the posture. While the strokes seem angry and harsh, they are smooth and organized proving a contrast to the chaos of the structure.

The exhibition is not all dark, there is color placed in the middle of the gallery and as you walk further, you see a lightness compared to her drawings. Rubins collects parts of airplanes that look like metal tubes and ties them together to make a cluster of insanity. Her largest piece in the exhibit stood taller than I and resembled a canon in the midst of a war. On the other side of the spectrum, her boat pieces are scattered around with color that upstages the blackness when the sunlight hits at the right angle. Even though these boats were model boats that a child might play with in the tub or a collector add to his gallery, they are hooked in and tilted upwards so that they look like an army. There’s something about seeing a boat facing point side up at you that might put you on edge, but as you back away, the boats are pinned together resembling a flower caught midway through growing and expanding. Rubins also depicts boats and airplanes through inkjet prints, which even though framed, are pinned in such a way that they come out of the frame like a popup story book.

Rubins picks at the psychological aspect of the viewer by constructing a confusion that makes her sculptures and drawings chaotic masterpieces. Between the darkness of the drawings and the colorful movement of the sculptures, this exhibition jumps out of the frame. !


Nancy Rubins exhibit Drawing, Sculpture, Studies is on display at Weatherspoon Art Museum through May 4. Weatherspoon Art Museum is located at 500 Tate St., Greensboro, N.C. Call 336-334-5770.