Steve Wrubel - Wild West Rodeo Photography - Celebrating America’s Western Mythology
In his second body of work, “Wild West,” American photographer Steve Wrubel continues his journey of capturing the essence of Rodeo traditions in America with a new twist. This time his visually arresting Rodeo images have evolved to become beautiful expressions of bucking broncs in the wide-open landscapes of the West. Juxtaposing the lone bronc rider with epic skies, Wrubel has created stunning images that connect us with the unique notions of America’s mythology.
Born in California, based in Texas, and a veteran of commercial and fine art photography, Wrubel turned his lens towards the American Rodeo in early 2019. Inspired by photographer Richard Avedon’s seminal work – IN THE AMERICAN WEST – Wrubel has historically separated subjects from their familiar background. His technique allows the viewer to focus on the details with undisturbed clarity, thus presenting a more genuine feeling and understanding of the subject in his work.
In his 2019 RODEO series debut, Wrubel used modern advances in photography to stop the action of those on horse or bull riding. By taking away visually distracting backgrounds, the audience could see the beautiful dance that had remained hidden in the wild nature of the sport until then. Wrubel’s images invite the viewer to a deep introspection of what is happening in the split second that they were captured. His bold compositions and soft but vibrant and complementary color palettes behold a sense of timelessness while creating new icons of the American West.
Wrubel’s three releases from the “RODEO” series (2 color series and a one in black and white) captured audiences because of their simplicity and beauty. Here there were acrobatic prowess and exceptional endurance transfixed with rawness and beauty. The images, stripped of any aggression, placed the viewer in the forefront of the action, creating a sense of excitement. The Rodeo series was primarily embraced by audiences and sought by art collectors. To date, most of the images from the first limited edition series are sold out, and few remain available in their Black and White release.
Since the summer of 2019, Wrubel has put over 75,000 miles on his pickup truck. Crisscrossing the western states searching for dynamic rodeo moments, he has been to events and ranches in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. His drive to dive further and further into the culture and the experience of the American Rodeo and Western Culture has allowed him access to the rare air of rodeo photography in events such as The American, The Riggin’ Rally, The NFR, The Gold Buckle Knockout at the Cervi Ranch and to photograph champions of the sport. On his trips from Rodeo to Rodeo, the expansiveness of the western landscape and its expressive skies captivated him to capture memorable moments.
These explorations culminated with Wrubel’s latest body of work, “Wild West.” At first view, these images show more complexity. Wrubel situates a lone Bronc or bull rider within an expansive landscape. Active skies now create a sense of immediacy and bring raw nature as another subject. The point of view masterfully places the viewer within the scene as the sole witness to a fantastic moment.
Inhere Wrubel acts as a photographer and a painter, recreating an idyllic scenario with narrow color palettes. Like in his former images, there is no narrative, only a moment frozen in time. But Wrubel elected to romanticize the scene with the notions of adventure and infuse it with the skills that allowed our ancestors to conquer the West. Each image is unique, each moment is fleeting, but in their capture, we now hold a treasure: a new icon of American Mythology, one that feels personal, relatable, determined, capable, devoid of judgment, timeless, and relevant. A modern-day Icon rooted in American traditions shows will and courage, thus inspiring us to overcome challenges as they come.
Wrubel Wild West limited editions are archivally printed on cotton paper either in color or black and white. The paper editions are available with eight pieces sized as 42” x 42” framed and 12 pieces as 32” x 32”. A frameless acrylic edition is also available with heights of either 60” or 72”.
Wrubel has exhibited in solo shows in San Francisco, Boston, Santa Fe, Aspen, Dallas, and Ketchum. You can find his works exhibited at Tierra Mar Gallery of New Mexico, Gilman Contemporary of Idaho, and Christopher Martin Galleries of Texas and Colorado. His limited edition series sell online at christophermartingallery.com/steve-wrubel.