Artist with Down syndrome featured at local gallery

AmNews Staff Reports | 6/23/2016, 11:31 a.m.
An exhibition of works by Haile King Rubie, a 26-year-old Harlem artist with Down syndrome, will inaugurate the Clara Francis ...
Artist Haile King Ruby Contributed

An exhibition of works by Haile King Rubie, a 26-year-old Harlem artist with Down syndrome, will inaugurate the Clara Francis Gallery, a new Harlem art spot, from July 27 to Aug. 17, 2016. The exhibition, “Haile King Rubie: Speaking Colors,” is primarily drawn from Rubie’s “Art Waves” of 2013 and 2015 and features contemplations of his otherwise inaccessible inner world. The new gallery space, located at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., is a welcome addition to Harlem’s art district.

Rubie is introverted by nature. Disinclined to verbal expression, he layers the void with vivid colors. Raised in the culturally diverse Harlem community, Rubie was constantly influenced by the traditions of his Costa Rican-born father, his Liberian-born mother and his Haitian- and Jamaican-born mentors. The integration of color, music and dance with everyday life in his multicultural upbringing inspire the 13 works of “Haile King Rubie: Speaking Colors.”

Individuals with Down syndrome experience deep emotions that they are able to communicate through visual and performing means, but are otherwise challenged to express. As a child, Rubie was introduced to forms of physical expression through martial arts and drumming training. When he was a teenager, his family paired him with a new artist mentor, the Haitian-born artist Carl Thelemaque, and Rubie’s exceptional genius for painting emerged and began to flourish.

In the studio, Rubie applies vibrant colors with the deftness of a seasoned conductor leading a symphony. He works on four compositions at once, simultaneously abstracting several experiences from his daily life. The works flow together well in his use of unified color palettes. These palettes are often derived from his memories of cultural excursions in the city. For example, the bright colors of yellow and orange feathers from women’s West Indian Day Parade costumes are reflected in the jubilant figure in “Dancer” (2013). In “Sax Player” (2013), we see the soulful browns, golds and blues of the Harlem Jazz Festival in the smooth saxophonist. The works are usually complex and built in layers. For example in “Untitled 1” (2013), a highlight of the collection, a face with a large nose appears to be superimposed over paintings of one or more people and a pair of tropical birds.

In the works chosen for this show, Rubie layers thoughts on culture, personal value, family, global issues (including the Haitian earthquake) and music using acrylic paint on paper. All his paintings are signed with a bold “Haile.” The works are unique in their ability to express complex introspection so clearly. Because he reaches for no particular style, Rubie achieved a high level of creativity. Although he is formally trained, his work contains an enthusiasm that seems to transcend the restraints of self-doubt plaguing some other formally trained artists.

The Clara Francis Gallery is located at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (Seventh Avenue at 123rd Street) and is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. or by appointment. An invitational collectors’ preview will be held July 26 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a grand opening July 27 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 347-641-0222 or visit and