Born and raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and currently based in New York, NY, Reuben Gordon applies virtuosically skillful finesse to paintings that feature scenes of urban life evocatively specific to, and imbued with, the spirit and ethos of their setting: overpass graffiti tags, billboards, and street signs, alongside stolen episodes of the day-to-day that capture the meaning of being young in the city: bar and apartment parties, sports games, dizzy car rides, and sneaky kisses.


Gordon’s painterly range in oil, pastel, and charcoal limns processes expressionistic and mathematical, photographic and gestural. In his recent body of work, You Already Know, images emerge from a period of transition and experimentation that meander from the Pacific Coast Highway to the Florida Everglades and Seoul, South Korea, as the artist makes his way home to New York City. The immediacy and fervency present, the thrum of humanistic feeling imbues the canvases of people and places in You Already Know with a new kind of realism.


Yet Gordon’s work also displays the visual discipline and underpinning of abstract painting—the correspondence of color, form, brushstroke, and the “sense of the resistant plane surface as a likeness of the visual continuum”, as Clement Greenberg wrote in 1949. The result is a poetic interplay between the literal flatness of the painting and the varied perspectival depths of the scene depicted.


Color is a protagonist in Gordon’s work. In Rainy Day Quarterbacks, his spectral hues ascribe a thermal quality to the scene, alluding to the close physical and emotional heat of a crowd of football fans on a wet and rainy day. Gordon says the color palette of this work was particularly inspired by Joan Miró and the glow he achieves in works such as Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement.


After living in Los Angeles, the open vistas and sun- burned colors of Southern California imbued Gordon’s explorations of New York’s streets and characters with renewed intensity. “The landscape of the Lower East Side, the East Village, and Brooklyn, and the fun-loving people I grew up with there”, he observes, “formed my internal architecture, as did the special kind of melancholy that exists in the desire for a colorful life.” Removed from the immediate access to that setting, Gordon bathed his memories and landscapes in ardent color.


Like Urs Fischer’s “tale of ten cities” and Fassbinder’s profane interiors, neon signs, dangling jewelry, and fragile chain-link fences present a view of the contemporary international city. Marks and phrases congeal into color and architecture. In nightlife paintings like Man at a Crossroads, Subterranean, and She Read Me My Miranda Rights, figures hover in a patchwork backdrop and mingle with abstract shapes, as if Arshile Gorky’s idiosyncratic forms twist into Max Beckmann’s moody figures.


Lush naturalistic gesture enlivens the Floridian compositions, Mangrove Night and Flamingo Area, breathing air and physicality into the cinematic and figurative representations of modern life. The result is Gordon’s evocative vision of solitude and setting.


Reuben Gordon currently lives and works in New York City, where he was born in 1996. He studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and received a BA in Studio Art from Bard College in 2018. He later studied at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently enrolled in Hunter College MFA program. Exhibitions include Seoul, Charles Addams Gallery, University of Pennsylvania (2023); New Paintings, Baert Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); UNTITLED ART: Miami Beach, Baert Gallery (2020); Lunatics, Wonzimer Gallery, Los Angeles (2018); OMI International Art Center, Ghent, NY (2017); and 21 and Counting, The Painting Center, New York, NY (2014). Collections include the Frederick R Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles; Friends Seminary, New York; and private collections internationally.

Selected Artworks