A load off his shoulders

A new show for the veteran rebel, Harold Rubin, will include his favorite works

harold rubin311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
harold rubin311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The controversial South African artist, Harold Rubin, will be exhibiting his work from August 19 until September 11 at the Tel Aviv Artist House. The exhibition, curiously named, “Load” or “Omes” in Hebrew, will include Rubin’s favourite pieces, which he has never before exhibited in Israel.
“This show is very special to me. For the first time in my life I have a curator who helped me to put together an amazingly eclectic collection of paintings, stretching from 1980s, 1990s, all the way to 2010,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Rubin has earned a reputation for shocking his audiences when in 1963 he painted “My Jesus,” an artwork that portrayed Jesus from Nazareth as an erect black nude with the head of a monster. The painting also contained the inscription: “I forgive you, O Lord, for you know not what you do,” a reversed wording of Jesus’ prayer on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Tried for blasphemy in South Africa and threatened with a nine year sentence in prison, Rubin decided to leave his homeland for Israel shortly after he was acquitted. “I remember I produced the painting as a provocative statement. I found it profoundly absurd that a religious art competition was organized at the height of apartheid when people were dying everywhere.”
When asked if visitors of the Artist House should expect to be shocked by “Load,” he answered: “I don’t know and I don’t care if people are shocked. I paint things that move me. Human condition moves me. I have to stay faithful to myself and to how I see things.”
Rubin first started challenging the existence and wisdom of God already at the tender age of five, after he witnessed unjust treatment of his black nanny and other black workers on his way to kindergarten. Apartheid was also the driving force behind his dissident activities later on. Fascinated with Jazz, Rubin put together his own jazz group in 1950s, which made it its point to play exclusively alongside black musicians. In the same spirit he also created Sharpeville, a series of paintings reacting against the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, during which the South African police killed 69 black protesters.
Rubin has been living in Israel for 47 years and he confessed to The Jerusalem Post that he feels happy and at home here. After his aliyah, he was working as an architect and also took on a professorship at the Bezalel Art Academy between 1979 and 1982. Today he dedicates his time solely to art. Rubin denies that his work was ever influenced by Marc Chagall and sees himself more as a follower of Picasso and Rembrandt.
Resembling a somewhat wandering Jew in his quest for pure artistic expression, Rubin concludes: “We all want to get there, but we never get there, so we have to keep on trying. We have to carry on.” For those who are intrigued by Rubin’s life story and want to find out more about his take on art, a biographical movie called “Magnificent Failure” will be part of the exhibition on September 4 at 9:00pm.