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Rebecca Rutstein’s Afterglow at Bridgette Mayer Gallery


[Alex enjoys a colorful, adventurous show of new works by artist Rebecca Rutstein, who moves between media with apparent ease. — the Artblog editors]

Geometry, geography, and geology merge with whimsy and painterly color in Rebecca Rutstein‘s latest solo exhibition at Bridgette Mayer Gallery. Her work, mostly paintings with the impressive addition of an installation in the back gallery, combines technological draftsmanship and, at times, cloying sentimentality–the unlikely pairing results in pleasing, universal works that speak abstractly of the structures which make up our world.

Colorful abstractions

Rebecca Rutstein, “Blue Hour” (2014), acrylic on canvas.

The large-scale, panoramic acrylic paintings, “Blue Hour,” “Cumulonimbus,” and “Roller Coaster” create their own distinct landscapes that exist in some distant future. “Blue Hour” is a saturated universe of rich azures, suggesting the darkest depths of the ocean or the mapping of nebulas with NASA technology. “Cumulonimbus” may initially come off as a recreation of the latter work in a gray scale, but there is something more menacing about the faceted, hovering forms in this work. Their backdrop melts and disintegrates, mimicking the water cycle and cloud activity suggested in the title. “Roller Coaster” provides a more lighthearted and serene experience; its honeycombed planes of acids and subdued cool colors lace the gold backdrop with schools of fish. The triptych, despite its name, is one of balance, and it demonstrates the way mathematics contribute to artistic form.

Rebecca Rutstein, “Awful Bliss” (2015), acrylic, flashe, and gouache on canvas.

Smaller paintings incorporate these repeating structures, but with more diversity of color and with more relation to human emotion and experience than to the natural and scientific world. “Awful Bliss,” “Suspension of Disbelief,” and “Bold as Love” are more isolated than the panoramas in the front. Presented in individual niches, the paintings resemble icons, meant to be contemplated rather than to surround. These smaller works are more accessible to new collectors of fine art, and incorporate all of the best aspects of Rutstein’s larger work.

Impressive installation

Rebecca Rutstein, “Sky Terrain” (2015), Power coated steel.

“Sky Terrain” (2015) is the highlight of this show for me, accentuating the best of Rutstein’s technical skill and penchant for playful forms. The mountainous landscape installation of power-coated steel forms seems to have sprung to life out of her paintings. Rutstein plays with our perception of depth, the “terrain” seemingly endless with the confines of the space.

Rebecca Rutstein, “Roller Coaster” (2015), acrylic and flashe on canvas.

In all, the exhibit showcases a great range of influences and practices, and establishes Rutstein’s style in a diverse presentation. Her ability to tap into the emotions of an audience through color and composition while displaying an intellectual questioning of natural forms in a modern age makes the viewer re-examine the structures that make up the world in which we live.


afterglow, arts & culture, bridgette mayer gallery, philadelphia, rebecca rutstein