Clear From The Start
Glen Rubsamen, born in Los Angeles in 1957, is known for his impressive use of “contra-luce” to expose overlooked subjects of an ever-evolving contemporary global landscape. The thirteen paintings included in the exhibition, Clear From The Start, are portraits of the so called “white elephants” of the landscape genre. Nuclear plants, oil platforms, missile launch sites, billboards, and high tension transmission towers feature prominently in the recent works which are painted with lurid colors and crepuscular light that suggests dawn or dusk.
In a central painting titled Three Mile Island (2018), Rubsamen refers to the nuclear power plant that became infamous to Americans in March of 1979 when it went into partial meltdown and released dangerous radioactive gases and iodine into the environment. The now defunct plant, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has for the last 40 years remained as a ruin, a memorial and a warning. In retrospect, it seems only logical to Rubsamen that an industry without solutions for the safe disposal of radioactive waste nor a clear plan for the inevitable catastrophic accident was not sustainable. The paintings are a visual reminder that the far-reaching effects and consequences of these technological developments should have been “clear from the start“.
For Rubsamen, the ideas of hindsight and foresight in the choice of iconography and in the perception of the image by future viewers are essential elements in painting. He sees hindsight as a failure of the imagination through which deliberate ignorance aligns with a perception of the world that willfully disregards logical consequences of cause and effect. Rubsamen’s paintings memorialize a first glimpse into the future, starting half a century ago, when events predicted that our ‘lifestyle’ would inevitably pollute and damage the earth.