The Jeffrey Rubinoff sculpture park on Hornby Island, British Columbia is one of the largest sculpture parks in Canada and the largest dedicated to a single artist.

History: Rubinoff purchased the land in 1973 and dedicated himself to making sculpture here. Rubinoff worked in steel so he converted this 19th century barn, which is perhaps the oldest building on the island, into a private steel foundry and workshop. He filled it with winches, pulleys, cranes, and heavy machinery, assembling one monumental sculpture after another single-handedly.

David Smith: His first major series of sculptures was inspired by the work of another master of steel. In 1978, Rubinoff became fascinated by the great American sculptor David Smith, who had died a decade earlier. In these pieces, which Rubinoff made between 1981 and 1982, he picked up where his predecessor left off. Like Smith’s famous Cuba series, they are constructed from stainless steel cuboid forms.

Cuba Series: These early pieces evoke patterns of rising and falling, opening and closing, creation and destruction. He saw them and everything he made afterwards as music in three-dimensional space. Rubinoff’s second series of sculptures are more mechanical in form, constructed from cogs of pistons, shafts, joints, and tubes. They possess a muscular strength that lifts them off the ground.

In 1982, Rubinoff swapped stainless steel for core 10, creating a series of abstract designs against the landscape. Their dark plains look like the brushstrokes of abstract expressionist paintings. This piece made in 1985 captures, I think, Rubinoff at the full mastery of his powers. It is an extraordinarily confident piece of sculpture made from a brilliant interplay of T sections and gussets, straight lines and curved lines, positive and beautifully articulated negative spaces.

Machine Age: It is entirely abstract of course, but it alludes to the forms and materials of the machine age and is both uplifting and intimidating all at once.

Reputation: Reuben Oz’s reputation peaked in the mid-1980s. He exhibited at the Marlboro gallery in New York at the same time as Francis Bacon, and his art featured on the pages of Art in America. But Rubinoff grew hostile to the art markets increasing commodification of creativity. By 1998, he had decided to keep his work here in what became a rapidly growing sculpture park.

Conclusion: It now covers 112 acres and contains more than a hundred sculptures made over a period of 45 years. Jeffrey Rubinoff died in 2017, but his remarkable body of work can still be seen. The Jeffrey Rubinoff sculpture park is open to the public through the summer. It hosts concerts and conferences, provides academic and student awards, publishes books and articles, and supports those who, like Rubinoff, believe in the value of art as a source of pleasure and above all of knowledge.

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