Los Angeles-based Sterling Ruby is currently exhibiting a selection of new works in London, on view at Hauser and Wirth’s Savile Row location. Investigating a creative process that incorporates studio detritus and recycled elements of previous work into his assemblages and collages, Ruby welcomes a new perspective on the fixed artwork.
Utilizing pieces of pottery, paper, photographs, and other cast-off materials, Ruby explores the practice of art making as that of constant flow and reconstitution. For EXHM, his adaptation of the word “exhumation,” the artist works at the physical rebirthing and repurposing of fragments and failed pieces. Pieces are fixed together using spray paint and adhesive, joining various leftovers from the studio environment into textured, layered works that play on ideas of decay and process in the creative cycle. Ruby’s process throughout these works seems informed by notions of sustainability, keeping materials and small fragments of paper on hand until they find their proper home on a work.
Ruby’s Basin Theology is a perfect example of this process, a series of works in which the artist continually reglazes and refires shards of pottery from past works, creating dense pieces that show the traces of their ongoing growth and change. The work seems to constantly be in motion, and could continue infinitely, but stands complete because the artist decided that he was finished. In other, larger works, Ruby pursues a sort of post-apocalyptic assemblage, displaying enormous blocks of wood soaked in patriotic colors, evoking a bizarrely presented sense of comic foreboding. His MONUMENT STALAGMITE is of particular note here, a towering fragment of wood and paint, with the semantically potent inscription “We Luv Strugglin'” painted on its side.
A tangible sense of mysticism, or rather, ritualism, seems to pervade the exhibition. Titles alluding to death and rebirth, and rhetorics of redemption complement the process detailed throughout the show. Ruby paints for himself a role as benevolent creator, rescuing material from demise to be reused in his works.
Despite his assumed position as creator, or rather, re-animator, Ruby’s work in EXHM also works at the idea of art as context. Instead of digging within the work and the materials used, the artist embraces the found or encountered as elements of his work, defined by the space in which his piece is situated, and the particular affects of the work for the artist. Relations between the artist and each piece are immediately foregrounded, and Ruby’s position shifts from an autonomous, active authority to a willing participant in the art process, relaying his own impulses towards materials as he places them in juxtaposition with others.
EXHM is on view until May 4th.
Sterling Ruby, SPCE (4023) (2012), via Hauser and Wirth