If Westbeth is a reminder of a New York we are losing—artistic and gritty and avant garde—then Peter Ruta himself speaks to a generation of 20th-century artistic European emigrés and flâneurs we have also lost, very nearly fully.
It was here, among the very first to earn a coveted spot, that Dresden-born painter Peter Ruta set roots down in New York City. Ruta turns 98 on Feb. 7. He is quite possibly the oldest living member of Westbeth and certainly among its most prolific, if least-well-advertised. That is just beginning to change: He was the subject of two small recent retrospectives of his work—one at the Art Students League on 57th Street in Manhattan—the same school that nurtured young Ruta when he arrived in America, fleeing Fascism, on Nov. 11, 1936—and the other at NYU’s Casa Italiana, coinciding with his last birthday. The former was held over twice; the latter focused exclusively on Ruta’s Italy years. Neither could quite do justice to the enormous breadth of Ruta’s work, nor could they fill the gap: It has been a long time since this country has paid sufficient attention to Ruta at all. (Italy and Germany have both held large shows in the last five years.) All of this is belated recognition, timely only in so far as it has, at least, happened in his lifetime.
Excerpt from an article in the Tablet by Sarah Wildman.
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