Sterling Ruby’s multifaceted practice encompasses sculpture, ceramics, installation, textiles, clothing, painting, collage, photography, and video. Featuring nearly 30 large- and moderately-scaled sculptures spanning his career, Sterling Ruby: Sculpture will be the first museum exhibition to survey the great variety of sculptural work of one the most significant contemporary artists working today.
From poured polyurethane works to monumental ceramic collages weighing hundreds of pounds to soft sculptures incorporating inexpensive fabrics that the artist often dyes himself, to Minimalist compositions of urethane and Formica, Ruby’s works cross traditional divisions between media and often straddle the line between high and low, fine art and craft, luxury goods and common necessities. Incorporating a range of modernist strategies to make expressive works of art with materials typically associated with utility and affordability, Ruby’s work addresses a range of issues—from societal to personal—and re-examines notions of beauty and value.
Ruby’s expansive practice offers a reassessment, critique, and reinvention of a variety of modernist strategies. The works appear to test the persistence of Modernism’s utopian idealism in the face of harsh contemporary realities like poverty, violence, and urban decay. Ruby’s ACTS series of Formica and dyed urethane blocks reconsiders the conceptual and esthetic purity of Minimalism with materials that suggest a run-down domestic interior, often inscribed with obscure words and acronyms reminiscent of graffiti. The SCALES, mobiles balancing abstract painted forms and found objects, challenge the whimsy and buoyancy of Calder’s invention with the random detritus of contemporary life. Fabric and fiberfill sculptures maintain the approachability of Claes Oldenburg soft sculptures while suggesting darker readings. With a practice that encompasses such a variety of sculptural modes—some closely associated with fine art (welded steel, cast bronze, found object construction, architectonic compositions) and others still traditionally related to craft (ceramics, fiber arts, clothing)—Ruby offers a singular exemplar in his engagement of the expanded field.
Organized by the Nasher Sculpture Center, Sterling Ruby: Sculpture will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue featuring a new essay on Ruby’s work by Nasher Chief Curator, and curator of the exhibition, Jed Morse.