4/17/24: Interviewing David Rubin

Valeria R -

Last week was my long awaited zoom interview with David Rubin, curator of the Old Glory Exhibit! This interview helped fill in some blanks and add new perspective to the exhibit files I’ve been familiarizing myself with for the past couple of months.

Rubin began as a philosophy student at UCLA, but when he was the only student to identify a fake bronze on an exam, his professor recommended him to Harvard grad school and that is where he studied art history.

Rubin has also worked as a curator in LA, NYC, San Francisco, New Orleans, San Antonio, Pennsylvania, and Ohio besides AZ. He now resides in LA as an independent curator and artist.

In Cleveland, Rubin curated a successful exhibit called Cruciformed depicting the cross in different ways. The museum wanted Rubin to curate another exhibit in the same vein, so he decided to use the American flag as his next symbol, leading to Old Glory. The ’89 SCOTUS ruling that flag burning was legal (Texas v Johnson) and the culture wars censoring art inspired Rubin to curate Old Glory as well.

Old Glory faced much more backlash and sparked much more controversy in Phoenix than in Cleveland or Colorado Springs where it was also shown because the Phoenix Art Museum has a more general and conservative audience. In Cleveland and Colorado Springs, Old Glory was shown more specifically to contemporary art and college communities.

Some of Rubin’s reactions to the backlash were misconstrued in newspapers which was devastating for him, but for only a few days until he processed it and moved on. He stated that none of those people actually knew him, and unapologetically defended his work as it was documenting history.

As a souvenir, Rubin showed us that he has kept a toilet-shaped mug with an American flag inside of it, referencing Kate Millett’s controversial American Dream Goes to Pot piece (you can see a photo of the piece in the link below).

Rubin also loves cats, and told us we could Google ‘David Rubin cat’ to read the riveting story about the rescue of his cat in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina which to me is a sign he’s made it.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed hearing from the mind behind Old Glory and learned a lot about the development of the exhibit. David Rubin has also recently launched a website which includes photos from the Old Glory Exhibit and the artwork itself, much of which I had never seen before.

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