Artist Chris DeRubeis keeps most of his techniques for creating his unique metal art to himself, but opened up to Park West Gallery to give a glimpse into how he developed his “Abstract Sensualism®” and his own personal style.
There are many “-isms” and movements in art, whether it’s Cubism, Impressionism or Surrealism. DeRubeis’ art comes close to Abstract Expressionism, but this didn’t quite capture what DeRubeis desires to convey. Instead of giving up, he invented his own “-ism.”
He calls his artistic style Abstract Sensualism®, which is characterized by the way his art reflects and moves in the light and its sleek, sexy curves and imagery.
“I like the movements that the grinds on the metal have with all the sweeps and curves, and all the soft, sensual movement lines,” he says.
The genesis began when DeRubeis’ family quickly learned their child had a penchant for art. His grandfather – an artist turned businessman – gave DeRubeis his first airbrush at age 13 to encourage him. The airbrush became DeRubeis’ favorite tool.
“He got me the brush and gave me a certificate for lessons for a class,” DeRubeis says. “I got to learn how to use the brush and equipment, learned some tricks, and I just went home and practiced with it.”
At age 16, this passion became a job airbrushing shirts at Six Flags Theme Park in Los Angeles, where he learned to paint quickly and efficiently. He continued on this path while enrolled in art school, where DeRubeis earned his keep by creating customized Harley-Davidson gas tanks.
One day in his workshop, a 20-year-old DeRubeis took a grinder to a tank to remove the paint, and was struck by what he saw. The newly-exposed metal patterns bounced and reflected light, and his mind raced with possibilities. Soon he was experimenting with chemicals, power tools and heat to see what other reactions he could achieve.
This all culminated with the creation of Abstract Sensualism®, an art form that combines sculpture and painting that is nearly two decades strong.
“I do a lot of abstract [work] and I do a lot of figurative [work], and sometimes I combine the two together,” he says. “There are a lot of abstract elements and a lot of my pieces have chemical reactions.”
As alluring as his style sounds, practicing it isn’t for the faint of heart. DeRubeis seals himself in a chamber, using paint and a unique mixture of chemicals known only to him on sheets of metal. If one watched him, they would witness scorching fires, freezing temperatures, chemical reactions and sparks flying from grinding metal. On average, the process takes about three weeks per artwork.
DeRubeis equips himself with goggles, coveralls, gloves and a breathing mask while in the studio. He says these precautions are necessary, as some of the chemicals are quite potent.
“It’s dangerous stuff,” he says of his process.
DeRubeis considers his process a “controlled chaos” that has its own beauty and abstraction. This chaos means no two works are ever the same. The chemicals react differently every time, or the fire dances to a different beat.
“I have control over it, but not total control,” he says.
On Personal Style
Much like his artwork, DeRubeis prefers an edgy style. Perhaps the most striking aspect is his distinct hair, which includes a striped mohawk and leopard spots. Like Abstract Sensualism®, it all started with an experiment.
DeRubeis said one day while talking with his hairdresser, she mentioned how DeRubeis doesn’t have a typical 9-to-5 job with dress codes. The artist thought it over and let the hairdresser work her magic. Since then, the look, much like DeRubeis’ Abstract Sensualism®, has become a signature of the artist.
“She was being an artist herself, I just had her use my head as a canvas,” he says with a chuckle.