Sterling Ruby, Sunrise Sunset, Hauser & Wirth, New York City

Hauser & Wirth is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Los Angeles based artist, Sterling Ruby. Possessed of a profound material sensibility, Sterling Ruby’s art speaks in a language inspired by sub-cultural phenomena ranging from graffiti, urban gangs, and prison systems, to craft and the history of quilt-making.

Ruby’s work, which encompasses nearly every medium, voraciously cycles through the autobiographical, the art historical, and the sociological, creating layers of reciprocal influence that radiate outward. Ruby exploits tensions within aesthetic and societal systems, recreating and drawing our attention to repressive and liberated states.

Comprised of paintings, cardboard collages, fabric collages, tapestries, ceramics, a mobile, and sculptures in metal, urethane and fabric, the works on show display a tendency to playful invert and manipulate materials and symbols. Much of the work harbours a sinister side: re-working classic American icons into something capable of aggression or representative of notions of gender and domesticity.

Much of his work contains a violence: aluminium baseball bats hang from the ceiling in Scale/Bats, Blocks, Drop and combine the playfulness of Dada with an underlying threat of aggression. Likewise, despite its seemingly innocuous name, Big Yellow Mama (2013) consists of an enlarged replica of the electric chair and serves as an ominous reminder of the power over life and death that remains the heart of the American judicial system. In his series of Soft Work sculptures the artist presents menacing and aggressive forms behind a playful, pop facade. Hanging Figures is a set of soft sculptural bodies connected at the arms, made from mass-produced patriotic fabrics that hang, entwined, from the rafters of the gallery.

This exploration of fabric and craft is also related to domesticity and gender narratives and in Flags Ruby looks at the masculine and the feminine in relation to traditional fibre arts and their imperatives, stripping gargantuan dyed tapestries of their hand-crafted value and presenting them as monumental echoes of the American flag. He is also interested in repurposing other items to be reclaimed and reanimated as new forms, especially those used in his own practice.

Gathering cardboard pieces covered in debris, footprints, and urethane splatter that were originally used to protect his studio floor, Ruby reinvents his studio detritus as formal compositions. Other pieces capture the movement of his process: Cup (2013) is a blood-red urethane sculpture caught in the moment between pouring and containing the flowing rivulets of polymer compound that Ruby uses in his practice.

Sterling Ruby, Sunrise Sunset, until 25 July, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th St, West Chelsea, New York, USA,

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1. The Cup (2013) Foam, urethane, wood and spray paint 233.7 x 293.4 x 223.5 cm / 92 x 115 1/2 x 88 in. Courtsey of Hauser & Wirth