Lives Of The Artists: Chris Rusak


The Death Of Luck, collage on masonite, 2011, 13 3/4 x 13 5/8 x 3/4 in. 

I am Chris Rusak, an artist living in San Francisco, California and I work primarily with collage and mixed-media. 

Pavilion 3, mixed media on masonite, 2010, 13 3/4 x 13 5/8 x 3/4 in. 

In some shape or form I have had a creative stroke since early childhood. Then, I was marveled by such mundane things as the safety background of printed checks or the organization of a tax form. Greenbar, perforated computer paper fed into dot matrix printers of the time, was fascinating for its two-tone delineation and hole-punched feeder strips.  Other types of ephemera would find their way into the home from relatives and workplaces, fueling my habit of making purposeless graphs all over them.

Träume 4, collage on masonite20114 1/4 x 8 7/8 x 3/4 in.

The Dream Of The Burning Child, collage on masonite, 2011, 16 1/4 x 16 1/4 x .75 in.

Years later, shortly after dropping out of college, I began to reconnect with my creative side that had lain dormant for some time. I was spending many hours in museums escaping from lectures and the end of adolescence. I began to paint and emulate the work of the artists I felt the most affinity with. Though I never found the satisfaction and fulfillment I sought with painting, I kept on, eventually pushing it and creating-in-general aside for some time. 

It was after a long hiatus that a friend who held a weekly art party encouraged me to pick up an Xacto knife and slice away, an attempt at collage as a way to shake off some of the creative doldrums. It was a transformative moment. 

Even though I was cutting and affixing the forms with an adhesive, it felt like painting and it touched beyond the rift I had always tripped into with brush and medium.

Intermezzi, collage on masonite, 2011, 5 x 7 x 3/4 in.

The technique of collage helped me access a desired ephemerality I sought to create with painting – a pulse between surface appearance and layered texture resulting in compositions that transitioned between these skins as the viewer approached the work. 

In collage’s grip I began to create again, and within two or three works, what I was doing with my hands matched how I perceived my experience with my eyes.

It was evident that collage and derivatives of the practice facilitated the construction of my ideas and vision. The monochromatic, abstract panels I now concentrate on were a natural progression from the chopped up magazine and design catalog work I made early on.

Pavilion 1, mixed media on masonite, 2010, 8 x 10 1/2 in.

Text No. 7, collage on masonite, 2011, 9 x 12 x 3/4 in.

I’ve chosen masonite, steam compressed wood, as my primary substrate. A rigid alternative to canvas, I appreciate the material as a thick, stiff version of hot-press paper.

My process deconstructs books and reassembles them into surface textures unconstrained by the necessary arrangement otherwise: pages bound at one edge and glued down their side, created to be read in sequence or as an indexable grouping of ideas.  

My compositions shift this paradigm, freeing the pages from their fourth edge, and distributing the binding material throughout the surface motif. Any depth within the original book has now been transfigured. Content is stripped of the original form, glyphs justified in line; any theme now removed from its structure. Words are often returned to their original utterances, a collection of grunts or phonics, if determinable at all.

Regression,  2011, collage and acrylic on masonite, 5 x 5 x 3/4 in.

My present concepts initiated with a desire to deconstruct personal belief systems. I examined the physical nature of ideas, early-life indoctrination, and the graded layering of memories we collect through time. My new works fixate on the collective & re-distributive nature of the subconscious, in particular the content of our experience that catalyzes nocturnal dreams. Small ideas or flashes of the quotidian become magnified and distorted, entwined between our personal symbolism, in both placid and unsettling rearrangements. We feel, with immediacy, our physiological reaction to the nervous system’s electrical shuffle under sleep’s unconsciousness. These compositions seek to obscure the otherwise instant recognitions a viewer has become accustomed to when reading a book, and to force reactions to the whole texture instead of the surface content.

Chris Rusak’s Website

This autobiography is part of the Lives Of The Artists Series 




  • Ctbakersdaughter

    The artist’s work is thought provoking, an optical enigma, meditative sustenance. Enjoyed the journey.