• Jews of NY team

Bruce Rubenstein a large-scale abstract painter

Meet Bruce Rubenstein, AKA @BruceRubensteinArt.Born and raised in New York, Rubenstein is a talented large-scale abstract painter that has been creating art for over forty years. His incredible story about how Art saved his life is one you want to read!

Bruce grew up in Long Island during the late sixties / early seventies. He graduated from Hewlett High School located in the 5-towns, Long Island NY and celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Hillel in North Woodmere NY.


Rubenstein’s childhood was not easy to say the least.. he spent his summers working as either a gate guard or a Cabana Boy in Atlantic Beach, a twenty minute drive from what he describes as his shithole home in North Woodmere.


His dad was a tough-as-nails construction worker, born and raised in the Brownsville section of East New York and his mother grew up in the Bronx. He recounts how his dad was “always pissed off and usually drunk by 7pm”. Every night. dinner at Bruce’s house was like a scene from Raging Bull.


His father wasn’t very tolerable towards him and the language he would use was nothing short of verbal abuse. He describes his mother as the polar opposite of his father. “Losing both her parents in a car accident when she was 14, I can only imagine what that did to her psyche”. They were married for Fifty-Five years before his father passed away.


Bruce spent the majority of his youth galavanting through the streets of a very different and harsh NYC. “I was always in search of something more significant than the depressing reality of the 5 towns.


He was only 16 years old when he stuck a needle in his arm for the first time, while he was with his older brother, Bart.


Without the knowledge to practice proper hygiene while handling needles and drugs, Bruce and his brother later both contracted Hepatitis C.


He describes, “when high, life is on a metaphorical raft, slowly drifting in and out of consciousness, and the dreams of all a person could be, come true, without ever actually having to lift a finger to get there.

This artwork is titled: 'When Will The Blues End'?: oil, acrylic, charcoal on raw canvas, 66 x 86 inches, 2020


Until the dope wears off and you need another fix to get you back to where you need to be. That’s when the fun really begins. There’s an old adage that’s quite familiar to most junkies, “It’s not the dope that kills you, it’s chasing the bag..”


Presently, Rubenstein has been clean & sober for over 20 years. He is married to Israeli/American Hollywood actress and Producer @ShirlyBrener and their two super talented daughters @OfficialMilaBrener @OfficialJujuBrener are rising stars and have already been in numerous TV shows and movies.

This artwork is titled: 'Anime': oil, acrylic, enamel on canvas, 72 x 60 inches, 2020


Bruce considers himself to be one of the lucky ones. Unlike his brothers, who unfortunately were not, both dying from drug related issues.


What Bruce believes saved him from meeting a similar grim ending was his love of art. Unlike his brothers, Bruce had something to hold onto; what he believes to be a greater purpose and the urge to create. His desire to contribute something to the world and to touch other people through his artistic endeavors was enough of a reason to stay alive. He does not believe he chose to become a painter, but rather that the paint chose him, stating “I’ve been a painter for a thousand years”. He also credits his mother for giving him the strength to become a better version of himself.


Rubenstein studied art and graduated from @AslNYC (west 57th Street) in the mid seventies. Two of his instructors were the world renowned painters, #LarryPoons and @RichardPousetteDart. Both of whom had a great influence on his technique & style. If you look closely you can see their fingerprints in his paintings.

Rubenstein solo exhibitions have been taking place in the Los Angeles area. Although his dream has always been to showcase in New York. He certainly has enough talent and work to make his dream a reality.


Rubenstein has no preconceived ideas when he begins a new painting. He does not work from sketches. In this sense he is an action painter working in the present time, purely from a stream of consciousness. He allows the paintings to reveal themselves, and as they do he becomes a vessel to something greater than himself. Each painting is unique, with its own DNA.

Rubenstein doesn't always understand the reasons behind why his art looks the way it does. His main objective is be free, to trust his instincts and to just go for it! He thinks all abstract painters have felt angst at one time or another. Staring at a blank canvas can be daunting, even overwhelming at times. He usually works on raw canvas, meaning unprimed so it has a bit of tooth. This gives the overall painting a gritty base to build on top of.

For him, the gritty base is like a dirty New York sidewalk. Those dirty sidewalks will always remain subconscious. His overall goal, his intention as an abstract painter, is that the viewer will eventually interpret his or her own truth from what they are seeing. Picasso said, “I do not paint what I see, I paint what I know”. “This body of work is what I know. Glean from it what you will…”

This artwork is titled: 'Octopus’s Garden': oil, enamel, acrylic on raw canvas, 46 x 84 inches, 2020


Rubenstein answered our @Jews_of_NY quarantine questionnaire:


What does your quarantine schedule look like?

My schedule hasn’t really changed much. My art studio is located in the back of my house, so I’m pretty much isolated, being an artist. I approach my art the same as any person working a 9-5. I make sure to devote at least 8 hours a day to my art. It is not a hobby. It is my life.


What’s your favorite spot in your apartment?

My favorite spot is my living room. It has many windows. I like to gaze outside and take in all that is happening in the real world. Being an artist can be a very lonely & isolating lifestyle. It’s necessary to find a way to stay in touch with your present time surroundings.


What’s your favorite quarantine binge food?

My favorite binge food is anything that contains gluten. Which is no easy task considering this is a gluten-free household. I have to sneak into the garage to stuff my face. This quarantine has not been good for my waste line. So far I’ve gained 20lbs and counting...


What’s your favorite Jewish fraze word during this time?

My favorite Yiddish word is Tzurris. Because I have plenty of it!!!


What are you binge watching at this time?

I just finished binge watching Fauda. Our very dear friend, Assaf Bernstein, directed the entire first season. He crushed it! Also, Peaky Blinders and Narcos. Those were my 3 favorites !


How do you spend Shabbat?

We normally spend Shabbat chilling out at home and enjoying one another’s company.


What has living through this coronavirus pandemic taught you?

Living through this pandemic has taught me to cherish everything that I had taken for granted. Mostly the little things. I just came from the gym where it is now mandatory to wear a face mask and gloves at all times. Six foot distancing circles all over the floor. hand sanitizer stations every 10 feet. The gym looks more like an ER at a local hospital than a gym. This new reality is nothing less than bizarre. My heart breaks for the children of today who are growing up through this “new normal”.


What do you miss most from your pre-Coronavirus life?

The thing I miss most is being able to travel with my family. We used to hop in the car every other weekend for a mini vacation. Just to be together and spend quality time away from the usual hustle & bustle of the city..


3 IG pages you recommend to successfully take your mind off things:

1. @Icanvas_Art

2. #cecilybrown

3. @Abstract.Mag