April 6 – May 12, 2019
Text by Cat Kron
Leigh Ruple’s paintings evidence a cineaste’s eye attuned to subtle moments of tension and romance within everyday life. In works rendered with a draftsman’s accuracy, Ruple creates scenes of high drama—but here the player is light. The artist’s tableaux are tender while giving off a nascent sense of unease: the sunset watcher’s dread as they await immanent darkness; the watercolorist’s frustrated attempts to capture shards of light skimming the surface of the sea. Ruple’s process is painstaking and methodical. She starts with drawn studies whose line work she translates to canvas with crisply defined brushwork which she then progressively refines and complicates. In these four paintings—honed to capture crucial signifying quirks of the various spaces the artist occupies in her neighborhood of Brooklyn, illuminated and in shadow—Ruple captures light in motion: advancing in a windowsill at dawn; scintillating on reflective, high-visibility athletic gear at night; caught in the spokes of a bicycle wheel in the early morning; and refracted in a wine glass at dusk. Light provides the momentum for these compositions and supplies their emotional charges, which skew steady and slippery, much like the registers of our own interior worlds.
With their highly defined planes and sharp focus, these paintings demonstrate the artist’s interest in American Precisionism, but sidestep the modernist movement’s iconic depictions of industry, rather taking cues from its practitioners’ lesser-known and more intimate scenes. Ruple’s paintings also diverge from Precisionism’s cool disdain for personal narrative, instead capturing scenes both imagined and sensitive. The resulting works operate both as contemporary snapshots, signified by the details left in (the fixed-gear bike, the Brooklyn rooftop, patio furniture, the disco ball…) and as generous, timeless depictions of urban life.
Light is hard to see—always one step ahead of the lens that attempts to capture it. Via careful observation and an acute understanding of optical perception, Ruple’s paintings pin down this ephemeral actor.