|Born||1972 (age 40–41)
Bitburg, West Germany
|Field||Artist, Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, Photography, Video, Performance|
|Training||Art Center College of Design, The Art Institute of Chicago|
Sterling Ruby (born 1972) is an American artist, who lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Artistic practice
- 3 Exhibitions and collections
- 4 Publications
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Life and career
Sterling Ruby was born on an American military base in Bitburg, Germany to a Dutch mother and an American father. His family relocated to the United States shortly after his birth, first to Baltimore, Maryland, and then to the rural town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania. There he attended the largely agrarian Kennard Dale High School. After graduating from high school, Ruby worked in construction in Washington D.C.
While living in Pennsylvania, he attended the then three year NASAD accredited art school, The Pennsylvania School of Art and Design, (now the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design)<PCA&D>. From Pennsylvania, the artist relocated to Illinois where in 2001 he received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2003, he moved to Los Angeles to attend the MFA program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. While at Art Center he studied with artist Richard Hawkins, and theorists Sylvère Lotringer and Laurence Rickels. While attending graduate school at Art Center he was the teaching assistant for artist Mike Kelley. Sterling Ruby currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Sterling Ruby works in a large variety of media including ceramics, painting, collage and video. Often, his work is presented in large and densely packed installations. In opposition to the minimalist artistic tradition and influenced by the ubiquity of urban graffiti, the artist’s works often appear scratched, defaced, camouflaged, dirty, or splattered. Proclaimed as one of the most interesting artists to emerge in the twentieth century by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, Ruby’s work examines the psychological space where individual expression confronts social constraint.
The artist has cited a diverse range of sources and influences including aberrant psychologies (particularly schizophrenia and paranoia), urban gangs and graffiti, hip-hop culture, craft, punk, masculinity, violence, public art, prisons, globalization, American domination and decline, waste and consumption. The author and psychologist Robert Jay Lifton, the “broken window theory” of the social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, cultural anthropologist Lorna Rhodes author of Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison, and the novelists Joyce Carol Oates and Harry Crews have also proved to be early influences.
For "Supermax 2008", a solo exhibition curated by Philipp Kaiser at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’s Pacific Design Center, Ruby correlated the architecture of the museum with the architecture of the California prison system.
"Supermax" is a reference to the special units of American maximum security prisons where prisoners in solitary confinement can be on lockdown for up to 23 hours a day. The dense installation of "SUPERMAX 2008" included poured urethane sculptures, aerosol paintings, geometric sculptures made of formica or brass, and soft sculptures in the form of blood drops and collages. The expressive exhibition distanced the artist's work from the ideology of Minimal art and integrated the seemingly disparate artworks included in Ruby’s art practice.
The artist has created a series of large, poured urethane sculptures, collectively titled Monument Stalagmites, in blood red, intense blacks, and other vibrant colors. These sculptures, which can be up to eighteen feet tall, resemble the stalactites and stalagmites that can be found in caves. The pieces are created by the accumulation and pouring of a quick drying poly-urethane over an underlying armature. The pieces are presented on bases and have a wooden buttress, often inscribed with text, that the artist refers to as a crutch. They have been described as monumental gestures and reflect the artist’s declared intention to depict the moment when malleability becomes frozen.
A prominent component of his oeuvre, Sterling Ruby’s ceramic work is informed by the California craft movement and German "hot lava" vessels from the 1970s as well as by the amateurish biomorphic shapes made in an art therapy class. His ceramic works feature thick, vivid glazes and charred and gouged surfaces on rudimentary forms resembling baskets, vessels, or body parts. In his Basin Theology series, basin-like vessels are filled with recycled fragments of earlier destroyed or damaged works. These works reference archaeological excavation sites. The fragmented pieces meld together with the application of glazes and repeated firing in the kiln.
Of all the disparate forms in Ruby’s practice, his paintings are the most formally abstract. They are all titled with the initials SP and then a number. His large color-field canvases, made entirely with spray paint, use a color palette ranging from deep blacks to acid greens and pinks, and appear hallucinogenic and gauzy. The paintings are influenced by the sociological implications of urban demarcation, vandalism and the power struggles associated with gang tagging. The artist has suggested that layers of gang tagging in Los Angeles, evidence of clashes over territory, eventually turn abstract, ceasing to have a clear order, and in the end losing their original meanings and authority.
Ruby's large bronze sculptures are generally poured in smaller sections, which he then joins together in an almost quilt-like fashion. Traditionally, bronze casting foundries grind the joining welds out of the final sculpture to hide this step in the fabrication process. For his large bronze sculptures, Ruby forgoes grinding the welds, which retain a rainbow patina.
His cardboard collages are titled EXHM, which stands for Exhumation. The artist has been repurposing the large cardboard pieces used to protect the studio floor from the urethane that is poured during the creation of his urethane sculptures. Cutting into the cardboard and rearranging formal compositions he finalizes the works by inserting pictures of burial grounds, prescription packages and other found images as a way of creating an autobiographical archeology or dig site.
His bleached denim and canvas collages are titled BC which refers simply to Bleach Collage, but also references the art historical dating reference BC (Before Christ) or BCE (Before the Common Era). For this series of works, the artist repurposes rags, fabric scraps, clothing, and denim that have personal as well as studio history. These patchwork collages are playful, almost pop-like, resembling the craft of quilt making. These works reference the utilitarian beauty of Gee’s Bend quilts as well as Japanese Boro textiles.
Exhibitions and collections
Ruby has exhibited at institutions including the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; Saatchi Gallery, London; MACRO, Rome; and Baibokov Projects, Moscow.
In addition to his solo exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art ("SUPERMAX 2008"), Ruby has been the subject of solo exhibitions at The Drawing Center, New York; La Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy; FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Riems, France and the Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; and Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden.
Ruby’s work is in international collections, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Seattle Art Museum, Washington; and Tate Collection, London. 
In 2011, the artist presented a set of large free standing sculptures in a public square in Lisbon, Portugal. One of the pieces presented was a large painted metal structure made up of individually stacked monoliths. This piece was later exhibited in a sculpture garden in the Netherlands. As part of this exhibition the artist encouraged visitors to deface the sculpture with their own graffiti.
In an interview with Steve Pulimood, the artist said, "Over the past few years I’ve done many sculptures that have had inscribed surfaces, gestures on a surface that are not only mediated by me the artist, but also by the public that has access to it. I have seen Serras with that kind of tagging, and for me it informs that irrational feeling you just mentioned … it makes the work itself more vulnerable. I’ve always liked that antagonism that public sculpture provides." 
Collaborations with Raf Simons
In 2008 Sterling Ruby designed the interior for clothing designer Raf Simons’ Tokyo store, using images of bleached fabric to create a splattered wallpaper that covered its walls and ceilings.
In 2009, Simons used denim bleached by the artist to create a collection of denim wear jeans and jackets.
In 2012, Simons created satin fabrics with images of four of Sterling Ruby’s recent paintings. Raf Simons created three dresses and a coat from these fabrics. They were presented as part of Raf Simons’ debut haute couture collection for Dior. In 2012, these dresses will be exhibited as part of the Esprit Dior exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing.
Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol. MOCA, Los Angeles and Skira Rizzoli, New York, 2012.
American Exuberance. The Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, Miami, Florida, 2011.
Raw Stardust: Excursions in Contemporary Sculpture II. Drissen, Chris and van Mierto, Heidi. Fundament Foundation, 2011.
Structure & Absence. (exhibition catalog) White Cube, Bermondsey, 2011.
Eslöv Wide Shut: 100 year Anniversary of Eslöv. (exhibition catalog) Eslöv, Sweden and Mallorca Landings, Palma de Mallorca, Spain 2011.
MapplethorpeX7. Richard Flood, teNues Publishing Group, Kempen, Germany, 2011.
New Dystopia. Mark Von Shlegell, Sternberg Press, Berlin in collaboration with CAPC Musee d’art Contemporain de Bourdeaux, France, 2011.
Sterling Ruby Desktop Vol.1. The Pace Gallery, Beijing, China, 2011.
Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting. Schwabsky, Barry. Text by Jan Tumlir. London, Phaidon Press, 2011.
Permanent Mimesis: An Exhibition about Simulation and Realism. GAM-Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy. 2010
Permanent Trouble: Kunst aus der Sammlung Kopp Munchen. Germany: Snoeck Verlagsgesellschaft, 2010.
Psychedelic: Optical and Visionary Art since the 1960s. Text by David S. Rubin. Texas: San Antonio Museum of Art, 2010.
Rive Droite/ Rive Gauche. Zurich:JRP/Ringier, Paris: Marc Jancou Contemporary, 2010.
Sterling Ruby: Ashtrays. Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels, Belgium, 2010.
Sterling Ruby: Ceramics 2007-2010. Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 2010.
Beg,Borrow,and Steal. Miami: Rubell Family Collection, 2009
New York Minute. Kathy Grayson. Published by O.H.W.O.W, 2009.
Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting. Bob Nickas, Phaidon Press Inc., 2009.
Sterling Ruby. Robert Hobbs, Jorg Heiser, Alessandro Rabottini and Sterling Ruby, JRP Ringier, 2009.
Sterling Ruby Robert Mappelthorpe. Brussels, Belgium: Xavier Hufkens, 2009.
The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture. Saatchi Gallery. Rizzoli International Publications, 2009.
Vitamin 3-D: New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation. Phaidon Press Inc., 2009.
If You Destroy the Image, You'll Destroy the Thing in Itself. Bergen: Norway: Bergen Kunsthall, 2008.
Stray Alchemists. Beijing, China: Ullens Center for the Arts, 2008.
Sterling Ruby Chron. New York:The Drawing Center, 2008.
Sterling Ruby Supermax 2008. Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008.
Red Eye: L.A. Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. Miami: Rubell Family Collection, 2007.
2006 California Biennial: Orange County Museum of Art. Michael Ned Holte, Orange County, California, 2006.
The Pantagruel Syndrome. Torino, Italy: T1 Torino Triennale Tremusei, 2005.
Sterling Ruby's Vampire. David Spalding, art-agenda.com. November 8, 2011. 
The Principles of Eternity. Rachel Corbett, Artnet.com 
Art in Review: Sterling Ruby and Lucio Fontana. Ken Johnson, The New York Times, September 22, 2011. 
The Promised Land? Will Portugal Arte 10 Become a Fixture on the Art World Calendar? Marina Cashdan, Huffingtonpost.com, August 3, 2010. 
Carol Bove, Sterling Ruby, Dana Schutz. Merrily Kerr, Time Out New York, Issue 775, 2010.
The Masculine Mystique: Houseago, Ruby & Kyack, Degan Pener, Paul Young, Andrew Berardini, Angeleno Magazine, April 7, 2010 
Sterling Ruby: Sincerely Hostile, João Ribas, Flash Art int. Ed., XLIII.271, Mar.- Apr. 2010: 80-84. 
Best in Show/Sterling Ruby's Cage Heat, Linda Yablonsky, T Magazine, The New York Times Style Magazine, February 11, 2010 
New York Times Round Up: Make Room for Video, Performances and Paint. Roberta Smith, The New York Times, December 31, 2009 
Unearthed Classics and Reinvented Forms: The Best Art of 2009. Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine, December 20, 2009 
Sterling Ruby, Kevin West, W Magazine, November 2009 
New Photography 2009, Museum of Modern Art, New York. MoMA Multimedia Video Interview 
Weekend Update, Walter Robinson, artnet Magazine, June 2009 
Who is Sterling Ruby? Julian Myers, Frieze Magazine, April 2009 
Brief Reflection on Sterling Ruby. Ed Schad. I call it ORANGES blog, July 22, 2008 
Art in Review, Sterling Ruby, Chron, Kiln Works, Roberta Smith, The New York Times, March 21, 2008 
- Peter Yeoh (2010). "Artistic Transgressor". Glass Magazine (4): 179. ISSN 2041-6318.
- Foxy Production, Artist Bio, Sterling Ruby http://www.foxyproduction.com/artist/view/6
- Smith, Roberta "Art in Review, Sterling Ruby" New York Times, March 21, 2008 page E29
- Sterling Ruby. Robert Hobbs, Jorg Heiser, Alessandro Rabottini and Sterling Ruby. Bergamo: Gallery d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea of Bergamo, 2009.
- Kate Fowle, ed. Stray Alchemists. Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China, 2008
- Schad, Ed. Sterling Ruby: Supermax 2008. ArtReview Magazine, September 23, 2008.
- Zhao, Sasha. Sterling Ruby: Truncated Malleability. Leap Magazine, November, 2011.
- Walsh, Brienne. The Survivalist: Q+A with Sterling Ruby. http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/conversations/2011-03-18/sterling-ruby-xavier-hufkens-paintings/
- Homecoming - a conversation with Sterling Ruby - April 27, 2011
- Sterling Ruby at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
- Sterling Ruby at Sprüth Magers Berlin London
- Artist's website at sterlingrubystudio.com
- Sterling Ruby at Hauser & Wirth