David Rubin is the Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art. David has been in this position since 2006 and is currently the project director at SAMA’s presentation of the international exhibit The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama. Originally hailing from California, David has held numerous positions at museums around the country including the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, San Francisco Art Institute, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
I worked closely with David because a company that I’ve partnered in helped to create a mobile web application for visitors to tour The Missing Peace exhibit on their smart phones. David is the voice on the videos that visitors will see as they take the Share Peace mobile tour. I sat down with David to discuss this exhibit and its importance to San Antonio.
David Rubin arrived in San Antonio by way of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Crescent City. Rubin joined the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) in 2006 as the Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art and has been responsible for the permanent collection, exhibitions, and programming in contemporary art at the museum.
One of the programs that have been very successful is the ongoing Artist Conversation Series. “Basically it is modeled on the TV show Inside the Actors Studio. I lead the artist in a dialogue [before an audience] about their life and art. It is a chance for people to learn about the art and artist in a real informative way,” Rubin says.
Rubin is also responsible for bringing in the international exhibit The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama to SAMA. San Antonio is the tenth and final stop of a five year tour and this exhibit will be in town through July 31st.
Over 80 artists have contributed pieces that range from “painting, drawing, photography, video installations, it runs the gamit, and what bonds the work is that all the artists contributed work to the show knowing that their work is the reflection of the Dalai Lama’s vision of peace,” Rubin explains.
Rubin says that the visit to the exhibit “begins with a video by Bill Viola of the Dalai Lama giving a blessing. The idea is that the blessing is not only for people who witnessed it at the time, but it is for all visitors who see The Missing Peace [exhibit]. You start the journey with a blessing.”
While the exhibit starts off with figurative work depicting the Dalai Lama, Tibet, and the Buddhist belief system, it quickly moves to more abstract concepts such as empathy and compassion, humanity and transition, the path to peace, spirituality and globalization, along with unity and impermanence. “The various themes that run through the show depict how human beings are all interconnected,” Rubin says.
There are a couple of pieces in the exhibit that visitors will be immediately drawn to. Marina Abramović, who had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art this past year, created a wall of videos of Buddhist monks and nuns chanting. “It’s a very meditative experience and anybody who is having a bad day should come to SAMA and [view this piece],” Rubin says.
One the other side of the wall is an inflated Buddha called Paranirvana, it’s the Buddha on his back on his deathbed and the artist, Lewis DeSoto, superimposed his face on the Buddha. “[Soto’s] father had recently died when he made this and he was thinking about how we really don’t know about that middle zone between life and death,” Rubin offers.
While these two pieces will no doubt be loved by museum goers, Rubin can’t pick any favorites and advises museum goers to experience the entire journey.
Rubin is very passionate about this exhibit and knows that “people will come away feeling inspired and thoughtful by the issues [this exhibit] raises. Art is a very humanistic endeavor to begin with and this exhibition reminds us very much about our humanism. That we are all part of one race and that peace is an option. This show, these artists, this art is all about reminding us the importance of getting along and giving us ways for us to do it.”
David says that he’s “pretty practical, I like to eat at affordable restaurants that have good food.” While working downtown he likes to go for the cheese enchilada plate at El Mirador and says that “they’re quite sumptuous.”
Additionally David says that you can never go wrong with the crepes at the Cool Café. When I tried to get him to suggest his favorite, the pluralist in him came out and he replied, “They’re all terrific, they’re very creative about them so try a different one each time.”
Be sure to visit SAMA before July 31, 2011 so that you can see The Missing Peace exhibit! To access the mobile tour, simply visit http://sharepeace.samuseum.org on your smart phone to guide you through the exhibit while you are visiting the museum.