Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby. Photo: Melanie Schiff

 

Sterling Ruby (*1972) has created a complex, ever-evolving artistic universe that oscillates between raw abjection and aestheticizing abstraction. His ceramics, sculptures, installations, textile works, videos and paintings are associated with a post-humanist view on culture. The Los Angeles-based artist is working on a map of our collective unconscious, with a particular focus on social topologies, as well as traumas and ruptures in post-war art history.

 

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Ruby’s oeuvre is diverse, formally and thematically, and difficult to characterize. While his SP (spray painting), BC (bleach collage) or more recent WIDW (window) series include color abstractions with a composition and materiality that explores traditional and contemporary senses of beauty, they also bristle with a clear subtext of psychological unrest. The artist’s geometric solids series consists of monumental minimalist sculptures made of Formica composite that Ruby has covered with graffiti, scratchiti, smears, fingerprints and other vandalizing methods. His SCALES series comprises mobile sculptures that merge modernist forms with such unusual readymades as paint buckets and industrial steel drums. Ruby’s SOFTWORKS recall labyrinthine bundles of amorphous, stuffed fabric figures with an unsettling corporeality. Apart from their aesthetic dimension, some of Ruby’s STOVE sculptures also serve as functional wood-burning stoves. The artist’s ceramics, which he produces in a variety of series and sizes, have organic shapes and sumptuous glazes and are often reminiscent of charred animal and human remains. His large-scale, totem-like sculptures made of polyurethane resin have a similarly visceral effect, echoing the visual repertoire of horror and science fiction films. Ruby has drawn on plexiglas with nail polish, made disturbing analogue and digital photo collages, and repurposed vehicles such as an LAPD squad car and a salvaged American submarine into sculptures.

The range of media the artist uses is mirrored in an aesthetic strategy that he himself describes as “schizophrenic.” Yet for all their multifaceted character, Ruby’s works share a common denominator. His creations clearly spring from an interconnected network and often make direct reference to one another, sometimes at the level of an ingenious recycling of used materials. Common to all of his paintings and objects is a sustained resistance to the ideological limitations of minimalism and conceptual art, their “high culture” social practices and legacy, which continue to dominate the art system today. He advances the evolution of an art-historical game with the abject and the refined, the origins of which are traceable to the work of artists such as Mike Kelley, Rosemarie Trockel, and Bruce Nauman.

Sterling Ruby draws inspiration from a number of intellectual influences, including Judith Butler’s gender theory, mathematical catastrophe theory and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. His oeuvre explores such contemporary phenomena as supermax prisons, American politics and consumption and the social treatment of mental illness. Ruby’s works resemble outgrowths of a social and psychological landscape determined by fear, repression, violence, and stigmatization—a landscape we live in, yet so often turn a blind eye to. They also create the lexicon for a language of chaos, transgression, and radical diversity—a source of simultaneous eruption and awakening.

 

Behind the Scenes with Sterling Ruby
Courtesy ICA Boston, 2020

Works
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
WIDW. HIGH-VIZ., 2018

Sterling Ruby
WIDW. HIGH-VIZ., 2018
Acrylic, oil, elastic, cardboard and treated fabric on canvas
213.4 × 121.9 × 5.1 cm
84 × 48 × 2 inches

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2, 2013

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2
80.6 × 116.2 × 99.1 cm
31 3/4 × 45 3/4 × 39 inches

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Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
SPECTER, 2019

Sterling Ruby
SPECTER, 2019
Painted aluminum
243.8 × 609.6 × 243.8 cm
96 × 240 × 96 inches

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Resin, urethane, fiberglass, aluminum and yarn
94 × 76.2 × 137.2 cm
37 × 30 × 54 inches

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Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
REDR.I.P., 2011

Sterling Ruby
REDR.I.P., 2011
Fiberglass and Formica pedestal
213.4 × 48.3 × 48.3 cm (drop)
84 × 19 × 19 inches (drop)

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Single-channel video, with sound
33:11 min

More views
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
SP76, 2009

Sterling Ruby
SP76, 2009
Spray paint on canvas
254 × 365.8 × 5.1 cm
100 × 144 × 2 inches

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
VAMPIRE 173, 2017

Sterling Ruby
VAMPIRE 173, 2017
Fabric and fiberfill
200.7 × 94 × 15.2 cm
79 × 37 × 6 inches

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
Transient Trilogy, 2005–09

Sterling Ruby
Transient Trilogy, 2005–09
Single-channel video
37:22 min

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008–2016
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, March 11–April 9, 2016

Sterling Ruby
WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008–2016
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, March 11–April 9, 2016

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Steel, paint, bronze, wood and mixed media
Dimensions variable

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Details
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
WIDW. HIGH-VIZ., 2018
Acrylic, oil, elastic, cardboard and treated fabric on canvas
213.4 × 121.9 × 5.1 cm
84 × 48 × 2 inches

Sterling Ruby
WIDW. HIGH-VIZ., 2018
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2
80.6 × 116.2 × 99.1 cm
31 3/4 × 45 3/4 × 39 inches

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2, 2013
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2, 2013
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2, 2013
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
Basin Theology/THE POACHER 2, 2013
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SPECTER, 2019
Painted aluminum
243.8 × 609.6 × 243.8 cm
96 × 240 × 96 inches

Sterling Ruby
SPECTER, 2019
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Resin, urethane, fiberglass, aluminum and yarn
94 × 76.2 × 137.2 cm
37 × 30 × 54 inches

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
SKULL (6385), 2018
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
REDR.I.P., 2011
Fiberglass and Formica pedestal
213.4 × 48.3 × 48.3 cm (drop)
84 × 19 × 19 inches (drop)

Sterling Ruby
REDR.I.P., 2011
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Single-channel video, with sound
33:11 min

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
STATE, 2019
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
SP76, 2009
Spray paint on canvas
254 × 365.8 × 5.1 cm
100 × 144 × 2 inches

Sterling Ruby
SP76, 2009
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
VAMPIRE 173, 2017
Fabric and fiberfill
200.7 × 94 × 15.2 cm
79 × 37 × 6 inches

Sterling Ruby
VAMPIRE 173, 2017
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
Transient Trilogy, 2005–09
Single-channel video
37:22 min

Sterling Ruby
Transient Trilogy, 2005–09
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008–2016
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, March 11–April 9, 2016

Sterling Ruby
WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008–2016
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, March 11–April 9, 2016
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Steel, paint, bronze, wood and mixed media
Dimensions variable

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016 (detail)

Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE, 2016
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Sterling Ruby
Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2020. Courtesy Sterling Ruby Studio, Los Angeles. Photo by Mel Taing. © Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
February 26–October 12, 2020

Co-organized by ICA Miami and ICA Boston, this major survey exhibition features more than 70 works that demonstrate the relationship between material transformation in Ruby’s practice and the rapid evolution of culture, institutions, and labor. Spanning more than two decades of the artist’s career, Sterling Ruby looks to the origins and development of his practice, through mediums ranging from lesser-known drawings and sculptures to his renowned ceramics and paintings.

Link

Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
November 22, 2019–January 2021

This exhibition foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. Some expand techniques with long histories, such as weaving, sewing, or pottery, while others experiment with textiles, thread, clay, beads, and glass, among other mediums. The traces of the artists’ hands-on engagement with their materials invite viewers to imagine how it might feel to make each work.

Link
Sterling Ruby
Installation view, Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Photo: Corrado Serra
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
DAMNATION
February 13–March 23, 2019
Los Angeles

For the artist’s fifth solo exhibition with Sprüth Magers, the artist presents STATE, a single-channel video projection that features aerial views of the 35 adult state prisons of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Ruby transforms the ground floor gallery into a giant black-box theater, immersing viewers within the artist’s ongoing investigations into the California prison system as both allegory and atrocity. Also on view is SKULLS, a new body of animalistic sculptural works that recall Hollywood special effects, Japanese Noh theater and, in the context of the exhibition’s title, Cerberus, the mythological multi-headed dog who guards the gates to the Underworld.

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Sterling Ruby
THE JUNGLE
September 17–October 29, 2016
Berlin

For Sterling Ruby’s second solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers, Berlin, the artist presents works from his SCALES series of mobile sculptures, conceived for the first time as a single installation. Ruby’s output across a diverse range of media can be measured as a fine balance between chaos and order. Manifesting his coherent artistic vision in painting, sculpture, video, photography, ceramics, textiles and, more recently, clothing, Ruby embarks upon investigations into the material and intellectual fabric of contemporary society.

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Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Sterling Ruby
WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008–2016
March 11–April 9, 2016
London

WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008–2016 presents for the very first time an eight year survey of the clothing and textile production made by Sterling Ruby. In 2008 the artist designed a basic “work wear” button-down shirt and a pair of jean-style pants to be worn in the studio. Over the years that pattern has seen an almost ritualistic retelling of the countless textile projects that his studio has overseen.

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Sterling Ruby
I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME
April 8–May 28, 2011
Berlin

I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME features a large number of works including the artist’s paintings, collages, metal, bronze, ceramic, fiber, urethane and formica sculptures. A paranoid fantasy of an exhibition, it manifests itself in a series of works that incorporate the letters RWB not only within their titles, but also as a color scheme of red, white, and blue—the instantly recognizable colors that represent the flag of the United States of America. In using this acronym, the artist creates a powerful dissociative reverie: USA becomes RWB.

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Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby

Rethinking Location
Rosa Barba, Cyprien Gaillard, Andreas Hofer, David Maljkovic, Trevor Paglen, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Sterling Ruby, Paul Sietsema, Taryn Simon, Armando Andrade Tudela, Andro Wekua
May 1–June 21, 2010
Berlin

Evolving from the work of twelve conceptual artists, filmmakers and photographers presenting alternate interpretations of fictional geographies, imaginary sites and "mash-up" destinations, the exhibition Rethinking Location reconsiders the notion of location. In an era characterized by a rapidly changing perception of time and space due to ever increasing mobility, migration and globalization, our understanding of what a location is has significantly transformed.

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Sterling Ruby

Uneasy Angel / Imagine Los Angeles
Doug Aitken, John Baldessari, Patterson Beckwith, Lecia Dole-Recio, Jack Goldstein, Richard Hawkins, Patrick Hill, Sister Corita Kent, Norman M. Klein, Barbara Kruger, David Lamelas, John McCracken, Matthew Monahan, Lari Pittman, Sterling Ruby, Allen Ruppersberg, Lara Schnitger, Kim Schoenstadt, Paul Sietsema, Catherine Sullivan, Robert Therrien, Pae White
curated by Johannes Fricke Waldthausen
September 14–November 3, 2007
Munich

Uneasy Angel / Imagine Los Angeles is a thematic exhibition comprising the creative production of contemporary artists, writers, and filmmakers living and working in Los Angeles. In light of Umberto Eco’s and Jean Baudrillard’s notion of hyperreality, the exhibition perceives Los Angeles as just such a place—with unclear boundaries separating reality and the imaginary.

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Press

Sterling Ruby: “Let’s Go Full Cult!”
Another Man, interview with Jo-Ann Furniss, April 8, 2020

Sterling Ruby at Sprüth Magers
Artforum, review by Christina Catherine Martinez, May 2019

Sterling Ruby in Conversation with Mimi Zeiger
AnOther Magazine, interview, February 2019

Sterling Ruby Pipes Down, a Bit
The New York Times, review by Roberta Smith, November 14, 2018

Stretching the Canvas
Surface, feature by Kevin McGarry, February 13, 2017

Sterling Ruby: Work Wear
032c, interview by Pierre Alexandre de Looz, Summer 2016

LA confidential
Financial Times, article by Jonathan Griffin, August 27–28, 2016

Fixierte Gesten zwischen Primitivismus und High-End
Kunstforum International, interview by Angela Stief, April–May 2016

Biography

Sterling Ruby (*1972, Bitburg, Germany) lives and works in Los Angeles. A major survey of his work opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2019–20) and traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2020). Other recent solo exhibitions include Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2019), Museum of Art and Design, New York (2018), Des Moines Art Museum (2018), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2017), Winterpalais, Belvedere Museum, Vienna (2016), and Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris (2015). Selected recent group exhibitions include the biennial Desert X 2019 and others at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019), National Museum of Modern Art, Osaka (2019), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018), Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2018), Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais Du Louvre, Paris (2017), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2017), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2017), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2016), and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016).

Education
2003–05 MFA, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA
2000–02 BFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
1992–96 Pennsylvania School of Art & Design, Lancaster, PA
Awards, Grants and Fellowships
2019 Alumni Award: Distinguished Midcareer, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA
2017 MAD Ball Annual Visionaries! Awards, Museum of Arts and Design, New York
Curatorial Projects
2014 TRAINS, Night Gallery, Los Angeles
2014 Sarah Conaway & Melanie Schiff, Taka Ishii Gallery Modern, Tokyo
2011 SELECTIONS: MORRIS, TROCKEL, HOLZER + PINK, curated by Sterling Ruby, Sprüth Magers, Berlin
2007 Post Rose: Artists in and out of the Hazard Park Complex, Galerie Christian Nagel, Berlin
2005 Automony, Foxy Production, New York
Collaborations and Special Projects
2019 S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA., Pitti Immagine Uomo 96, Florence
2018 CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Brand Headquarters, Paris
2018 L.A. Dance Project: Murder Ballades (traveling exhibition)
2017 Sterling Ruby Takeover, New York Art Book Fair, Printed Matter, Gagosian booth, New York
2017 CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Spring 2018 Runway Design, New York
2017 FLASH FLASH FLASH, Los Angeles Art Book Fair, Printed Matter, Gagosian booth, Los Angeles
2017 CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Showroom, New York
2017 CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Fall 2017 Runway Design, New York
2017 CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC, 654 Madison Avenue Flagship Store, New York
2017 L.A. Dance Project: Murder Ballades (traveling exhibition)
2016 L.A. Dance Project: Murder Ballades (traveling exhibition)
2015 L.A. Dance Project: Murder Ballads, Jacob's Pillow Dance, Ted Shawn Theater, Becket, MA; Fall for Dance, City Center, New York
2014 Basilica SoundSpace, Basilica Hudson, Hudson, NY
2014 Raf Simons/Sterling Ruby FW 2014, Paris
2014 L.A. Dance Project: Murder Ballades, The Theater at the Ace Hotel, Los Angeles, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris: 2014 Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
2012 Christian Dior FW 2012-2013, Paris
2010 Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby Denim Capsule Spring/Summer Collection
2008 Raf Simons Store, Aoyama, Tokyo
Public Collections
Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo
Baltimore Museum of Art
Bass Museum of Art, Miami
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Centre Georges Pompidou
Des Moines Art Center
Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, NY
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Istanbul Modern
Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Montreal Museum of Fine Art
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Trento
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Rachofsky Collections, Dallas
Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA
Rubell Family Collection, Miami
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The Seattle Art Museum
Sender Collection, New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Tate, London
True Foundation, Seattle, WA
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York