" . . . fascination lies not only in the sexual ambiguity of the subjects depicted, but in their suggestion of the uncanny; the indefinite condition of the real.” - Christoph Grunenberg, Tate Modern
Children are innocent, we are told, existing in a state of unperturbed self-sufficiency and looking at the outside world with unlimited trust. They share this ideal condition with the objects of their affection, such as cats, dogs, or other pets. When disaster strikes and this peaceful existence is disturbed, some natural law seems to have been violated. As in much of contemporary horror, the shock effect of evil deeds and ghastly events is greatly enhanced if unleashed on the pure and simple in spirit or invading a seemingly picturesque locale and cheerful ordered communal life. The supposedly asexual and immaculate bodies of pre-pubescent children are the primary site of artist Bradley Rubenstein’s investigations into the changing conceptions of identity and the state of ethical, social, and sexual attitudes today.
Rubenstein’s hybrid characters have individuality and uniqueness that make a final appearance in a world dominated by the bland mix of the generic and universally acceptable. His unfortunate and grotesque anomalies, while artificial constructs, are not however, technologically manufactured cyborgs. Rather they are human and animal organisms challenged by the whims of nature and the malice of biological manipulation. Paradoxically, though, technology is inscribed in the figures through representational techniques that obliquely allude to analog and digital methods of reproduction.
The approximation of advanced digital manipulation to genetic engineering demonstrates how clear distinctions between human and animal, mortals and machines, are no longer meaningful as they once were. The dualism of nature and culture, mind and body, has broken down, revealing a decentralized, constantly shifting and mutating reality. The scientific system of classification and organization of species seems to fail in the face of Rubenstein’s mongrels as a fantastic and wondrous world takes over, where life is stranger than fiction.
Bradley Rubenstein has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Painting, The Pollock-Krasner Award and a grant from The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. His works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and The Detroit Institute of Arts, among others. Bradley Rubenstein lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y.