The Man, The Myth, The King: David King Reuben

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“So, I have an idea, that I think could revolutionize the art world.” Is your interest piqued? Thought so. “The idea stems from film, and the way it was before. People would just go to the cinema and walk in whatever time they wanted, essentially cutting up the whole process of watching a film. When Hitchcock came around, he said that no tickets would be sold after a certain point, and that if you want to see this film, you have to come at the right time.

With a gallery, people come in whenever they want, take some pictures, and leave. I don’t want people walking in and taking pictures with their phone because they aren’t actually experiencing anything. I want a very large space. I want people to buy tickets. I want people to put their phones in their bags, in the lockers. For the first half hour, you wont see any paintings—everything will be covered by curtains.

Then the lights turn low, the spotlights hit the painting, the curtains open and an orchestral ensemble starts playing. Two and a half minutes per painting only! The piece of music is written for the painting. Then the curtains close, and the same thing happens with the next work.

It is a real experience—you’re really enjoying yourself, there is no photographic evidence, you can only feel it. After each painting has been looked at, the curtains open simultaneously; you’ve got eight minutes to go to whichever painting you want. You have a whole orchestra surrounding you, the vibrancy and the power of music exploding in the air! People scattering to find the painting they love—you’ve only got a few minutes to take in the image, to take in the color, to take in the meaning. And then the curtains close, and you get the fuck out of my show.” Ladies and gentlemen, meet David King Reuben.


Reuben is a modern Renaissance man, fluent in all artistic practices. He paints, he sculpts, he sings, he dabbles in film—the list is endless. “When I was a kid I used to do arts and crafts every Sunday. I was always drawing,” he tells Xpatnation, “and every time I did one I was very encouraged by my parents, so I never really stopped.” Reuben grew up in London in a highly orthodox Jewish household and was looking for a means of escape, which ultimately, he found through his art. “I needed to escape, I needed to break out… I needed there to be some sort of rebellion to get out of there. I needed to go through an internal and external search to find out what else was out there, to find out who I was and who we are as changing human beings.”  


For David, his focus has always been on art, saying in a self-deprecating manner that he really “couldn’t do anything else.” Though interested in academia, Reuben had a hard time at school, as he suffered from dyslexia. “They just didn’t understand how to teach everything to me,” he asserts, “I mean, make it interesting! These guys are getting paid nothing, trying to teach you when you aren’t interested, completely lost for direction. They can teach, but unless you are learning, the act of teaching is superfluous.” Reuben continued to thrive on his artwork, fueling his creativity until he eventually moved to New York City seven years ago. Does he miss London at all? “I wake up everyday with this big grin on my face. You wont be able to get it off me—this smile will stay on my face forever.”

blue blur

The Ocean

His work is strong—bold colors, almost startlingly bright, contrasted with fine, smooth surfaces. When looking at them, you find yourself completely immersed, transfixed by the spotlighted effect they seem to possess. A common trope within his work is the figure, a constant he has dealt with in his past works just as much as in his current projects. “I was always dealing with the figure. If you look at the art, these figures all have blurred lines and an insignificant background, just one plane of color,” he says while commenting on one of his most recent works, a hazy figure that almost seems superimposed upon the most vivid red pigment imaginable. “In the older works, the backgrounds are over the top, but the later ones are all smooth. We use techniques of wet-sanding to create this almost flesh-like feel, the same process they use on cars, though this is canvas instead of metal.” King is right, the works appear to be rendered on a material similar to fiberglass—it seems improbable that such an electrifying effect could stem from the commonplace canvas. “I had always been working very expressively,” he explains about his change in composition, “but was wondering how to take this expressiveness and give it a very finished, polished and refined feel. I was wracking my brains to figure out how to do this… I then started taking my older images and reworking them digitally or though other silk-screening processes to create this newly expressive technique.” A total of forty layers of paint are applied, in a painstakingly attentive process requiring the utmost attention. The results are undoubtedly worth it– The paintings truly stop you in your tracks.

New Works Silk Screen (Untitled 1)

 Reuben wants you to engage with his artwork. With the over-saturation of media dispersed on multiple mega-platforms, it is too easy to quickly glance at a work and be done with it. In order to understand a piece and evaluate it, you must take the time to establish a relationship with it. “It goes back to teaching,” Reuben says, “they can be talking, but unless you are listening, that connection is absolutely worthless. The same goes with art. You can have a painting, but unless it forges a bond with the viewer and they feel an emotion, it is worthless. You feel it, and if you don’t feel it when you look at the paintings, either I’ve failed at my job or you’re not looking hard enough.”

Listening to David is like watching a fireworks display. Within an instant, every thought and every look is taken over by flashes and bursts of bright color. Before you have a moment to admire the first explosion, the next one is stealing the scene, and so forth. It is an enveloping sensory experience. You find yourself unable to do anything but sit back, watching and listening an artist that truly encapsulates passion. Then, in a flash, it is over, and you are desperate for the show to start up again.

New Works Silk Screen (Untitled 2)

 Check out some more of Davids work at his website And on Instagram