Rubin415 : Take Me To Church

Street Artist Invited to Bring Inspirational Modernism To a Brooklyn Parish

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians, which makes a lot of sense for a guitar player like Rubin415, who also happens to be a Brooklyn-based Street Artist.

In fact when we invited Rubin to paint the Domino Walls in Williamsburg in 2014 he described his mural-making process in musicians’ terms;

“Like the rhythm in a piece, it has to start with the intro, getting into the verse, then in the middle it gets busy with the chorus, then you get a bridge, the song gets to breathe a little bit, and then you have the outtro so its all the same between music and art.  It’s different tools to express – some ideas work better as paint and some as audio.”

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Tiled fleur de lis inspired Rubin415 in his new works at Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The patroness saint actually has a number of churches named after her around the world and this Greenpoint, Brooklyn location is one of two named for her in New York City. This fall Rubin was invited by a priest to consider bringing his clean mid-century modernism to the back yard and other vignette locations around the church – an occurrence that would have been unthinkable to him as an active teen graffiti writer in 1990s Sweden. Churches were someplace to avoid – an unwritten rule for graffiti writers in most cities actually regarding houses of worship.

The project has been rewarding however, and while he hasn’t become an official follower, he sounds like he has a new appreciation for houses of the holy. Spending many quiet hours in and around the various atriums and vestibules and congregative spaces Rubin says he took cues from the obvious architectural elements as well as the smaller more decorative flourishes when planning his intersecting planes and forms.

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Rubin says that no two commissions are alike and this was his first in a place so filled with history and meaning. He also will always associate it with the birth of his and his wife’s first child, so evidently Rubin was not the only one laboring in November, but more on that later…

Today we bring you exclusive images of this freshly completely and somewhat cloistered installation by Rubin, who actually took us to church to show us his inspired manifestations.

BSA: You mentioned that you thought the Priest had taken a big risk by giving you this commission. Why?
Rubin: It is very rare for the people of a church to commission a Street Artist to a paint mural on the church. It is kind of unconventional work that we do. He mentioned to me that a lot of new and young people are moving into the area and his idea was that Street Art could help to connect the church with them.

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Did you have to present a sketch for approval?
Rubin: Yes I had to present them with suggestions, not final sketches. They had to be approved by the community in the neighborhood at a community meeting on a Sunday. I attended one of those meetings. They wanted to meet the artist so I went and told them a little bit about what I do and who I am.

BSA: Did they ask if you were a religious person?
Rubin: No

BSA: Did they treat you well?
Rubin: Yeah, very well. I’ve done a lot of murals and every single one of them is different but this one is definitely a very memorable experience in many ways. They have been super easy-going and helpful. They gave total creative freedom.

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: How was it painting outside?
Rubin: Very different because I spent a lot of time inside the church making sketches, drinking coffee. I don’t know if you are supposed to drink coffee inside the church. I took my hat off but I drank coffee. It was a bit cold but being inside this church and watching the amazing daylight changing was very nice. I like to work on site-specific commissions and be inspired by the neighborhood I’m working in. I don’t know much about the church and I’m not too religious but I started the project with an open mind and it has been an amazing experience and very quiet – which I think affects the end result. I also took clues from the church architectural and decorative details for inspiration on the mural.

BSA: So you didn’t have people on the street asking you a million questions?
Rubin: Yeah. People asking you questions when you work in public is part of the job but working on this mural was a nice break from the ordinary. Not having to talk to anybody. I didn’t listen to any music I just enjoyed the quietness.

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: How did the Priest know of you and your work?
Rubin: It’s a very funny story. I went to the supermarket where I buy my groceries and the owner who had commissioned me to do a mural on the building approached me and told me that a Priest was asking for me. I was like “what’s going on, what have I done?”! He gave me the Priest’s number and I called him and I had no idea what was going on. His name is Father Thomas. He told me that he had seen my murals on Grand Street and Metropolitan Ave and he liked my work and he told me that it reminded him of the stained glass windows in the church. So he had this idea of me painting a mural on the back of the church on the walls of the auditorium. It worked very well.

BSA: So you mentioned that you were well into your first week of painting when your wife Sanna brought you lunch but didn’t mention to you that her contractions for giving birth had already begun?
Rubin: It was a Sunday, a beautiful day and she came here like she always did to bring me coffee and lunch and everything seemed fine. I worked for 12 hours at the mural and little did I know what I was going to find at home. My wife was having horrible contractions. But she wanted to wait as long as possible and at 11:00 pm I got the order from her to call UBER, that’s how it works nowadays. The UBER got lost on his way to us and it wasn’t fun to have her standing on the street.

We went to Bellevue and he screwed up again. He didn’t find the right entrance and had to walk for two blocks. She was checked in and I was told to sit in the waiting room and I waited for two hours and soon after that I was told that my wife was about to give birth. It all went very fast and they sent me back home. I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at the hospital. We all were tired so I decided to let them rest and I went home and crashed.

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: When did you resume work on the mural?
Rubin: I took off a week and the priest knew what was going on and they were happy with the news and told me to take my time to come back and finish the mural.

BSA: How did you feel when the mural was completed?
Rubin: The labor was hard. When you do a large mural there’s a lot of work and in this case it was both physically and emotionally. Many times I though I was done with it but the finishing touches were too many and the original walls were in very bad condition so just priming them took a long time. When I finally finish I felt relieved but my mind was already onto the next project. What I enjoy most is always the process. By the time the mural is completed I usually need a break from the work. But I enjoy the process very much.

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Rubin415. Saint Cecilia Church. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. November 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

 

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