Sterling Ruby, 'Basin Theology/MMP-3FDDKG', 2012. Ceramic. 25.4 x 91.4 x 101.6 cm / 10 x 36 x 40 in. © Sterling Ruby. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.
Los Angeles-based Sterling Ruby salvages the recycled materials for his multidisciplinary and mixed-media works not from rubbish dumps but from his own studio.
In the artist’s new series ‘Basin Theology’, on display as part of his solo show this month at Hauser & Wirth’s Savile Row space, shallow and scorched circular vessels are fused with the broken fragments of previous aborted pottery pieces.
If past failures become reborn in these strange ceramics, then the theme of coming back from the dead is extended by the photographs of burial grounds that feature in Ruby’s collages on cardboard.
Sterling Ruby, 'EXHM (4019)', 2012. Collage and urethane on cardboard. 114.3 x 304.8 cm / 45 x 120 in. © Sterling Ruby. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.
Sterling Ruby, 'VAMPIRE 96', 2013. Fabric and fiber fill. 213.4 x 114.3 x 10.2 cm / 84 x 45 x 4 in. © Sterling Ruby
Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.
In these works the artist reuses the cardboard that had protected his studio floor while he produced the large sculptures on view, including Monument Stalagmite/WE LUV STRUGGLIN' (2013), a red and blue mass formed by pouring molten plastic.
The urethane that fell on the cardboard coalesces with the artist’s footprints, found images, printed matter, dirt and other detritus from his workplace.
Ruby’s work is most powerful, however, when it opens up to the world away from his studio. VAMPIRE 96 (2013) uses textiles patterned with the Stars and Stripes to comically frame the mouth of a vampire; the nationalism symbolised by the American flag is made sinister by the blood-red fabric that form its fangs.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine