By day, London-born, Brooklyn-based composer Joseph Reuben crafts the orchestration for feature documentaries, short films and global advertising campaigns. By night and in periods of self-exploration, Reuben’s been producing a body of artwork—drawings, paintings and digital image modifications—that he has finally displayed in a debut one-off exhibition, “Starlets.” In a Williamsburg penthouse, Reuben showcased dozens of creations. From two large-scale charcoal, graphite and acrylic works to smaller hand-drawn figures on paper, two thematic ties bound everything: hints of self-portraiture and modification of classic beauty. Eerie, otherworldly figures—both dark and gentle—populated the walls and hints of an artist’s vision came to life.
“It was time for me to put things out,” Reuben explains to CH. “I’ve been making art for years. It has always been a way for me to step out of composing, to dream differently and enter a world of my own creation. I thought, ‘Why not create a show that would allow people to walk into that for a little while?'” Reuben’s vision of otherness incorporates figures drawn purely from imagination, that bank on self-understanding and border on self-portraiture but there are hints of the surreal. It also factors heavily into his series of modified starlets, iconic images of classic Hollywood actresses which Reuben has drawn over by hand and then digitally, before printing out in editions of three digital C-type prints.
As for the allure of starlets, Reuben notes his interest two-fold. “I’ve always drawn weird characters,” he begins. “At the same time, I’ve always been drawn to Hollywood. As a child growing up in Hendon, in North London, it was so far away from me and my life. I constantly wondered about its inherent magic.” A perspective shift led to the spirit behind the show. “In moving to New York, you become jaded and these early ideas of stardom and glamour become shattered,” he says. “Magic is lost. I wanted to bring some of that back, with my own weird expressions peppered throughout.”
“Of course, starlets were idolized for their beauty but they had substantial power—they had control over the world, more than just the world’s captive gaze,” he continues. “I’ve always admired really powerful women.” With this is as inspiration, Reuben masks the figures, either with harlequin-like make-up (which he says offers levity and disrupts the idea of traditional beauty) or with elements of himself.
Work from the “Starlets” exhibition can still be purchased online, with prices available on request.
Images by David Graver