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La Brea Landmark Jack Rutberg Fine Arts to Close — but Don’t Say It’s Over

Rumors had been circulating for months, but a few weeks ago, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts made the news official. After 37 years at its home on La Brea Avenue, it turns out Rutberg's current show will be its last. At least on La Brea; at least for now.

Jordi Alcaraz’s aptly titled “Defying Boundaries” show is open through Aug. 31, after which the space, whose new owners made it a logistical challenge for the gallery to stay, will in fact close its doors. However, Rutberg himself is adamant that this is not the end for the gallery, which has presented elevated and historically significant modern and contemporary art for more than 45 years.

Patrick Graham, A Song for T. & R. (1988), 32 x 44 inchesEXPAND
Patrick Graham, A Song for T. & R. (1988), 32 x 44 inches
Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

“I’m way too young to retire!” says the ever-affable Rutberg, surrounded by the somewhat-sorted contents of an art library that could choke a small college, his desk and email both clogged with letters of support and gratitude from people around the world and from all walks of life. He’s even had people offer to help him pack.

“For now, we have an architect working on a special storage location for the collection while we figure out our next move,” Rutberg says. He’s had offers of exhibition spaces to use from Little Tokyo to Brussels — but for now, he’s going to take it step by step and make sure that whatever his next move is, it’s exactly what he wants.

As the video tour above shows, Rutberg’s special gift for explaining even the most scholarly works is a huge part of what has drawn crowds to his exhibitions. The gallery often seems more like a small museum than a gallery, and Rutberg always has time to show people around, answer their questions and make the art come alive. In fact, there are dozens of such videos at his site, and they are worth binge-watching.

Alexander Calder, Untitled (1945), 24 x 26 inches, from "Surreal/Unreal"EXPAND
Alexander Calder, Untitled (1945), 24 x 26 inches, from "Surreal/Unreal"
Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

Over the years, the gallery has produced too many exhibitions of note to count, but landmark projects from Jerome and Joel-Peter Witkin (estranged twins, each a visual arts icon, who had never shown together before Rutberg made it happen), Patrick Graham, Hans Burkardt, Ruth Weisberg, Claire Falkenstein, George Condo, Oskar Fischinger and Francisco Zuniga are the kinds of shows that open eyes, change minds, educate and expand horizons.

The Alcaraz show itself, though it was not planned to be the final one in the space, is rather fitting for the occasion, and worth seeing in any case — but all the more so when you realize it’s your last chance. Its witty sculptural language of books and broken glass, footprints and filigree is both melancholy and dangerous, material and metaphorical. But unlike most of Rutberg’s shows, this one won’t be extended.

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave., Mid-Wilshire; (323) 938-5222, jackrutbergfinearts.com; Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; through Aug. 31; free.

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