Sterling Ruby Gives Brussels Two Very Different Takes on Cardboard

“I like to think about art as being similar to poetry,” says the prolific multimedia artist Sterling Ruby. “It can’t be proven. It just exists and there’s an aura about it.”

It’s the closest thing Ruby—whose wildly different sculptures, ceramics, textiles, and collages catapulted him to fame in the early part of the decade—has to a cohesive artist’s statement. His practice is one informed by a generation oversaturated and underwhelmed, for which, he says, “there is just too much information for anything to be coherent or whole.”


Ruby’s most recent set of exhibitions at Xavier Hufkens in Brussels mirrors his obsessively organized studio practice in Los Angeles, where a cavernous space is split into five separate workshops for woodworking, ceramics, drawing and collage, painting, and urethane. One show, “ECLPSE, features recent cardboard collages, while in a separate gallery space a series of mobile sculptures on are on display in SCALES.” 

Ruby’s most recent set of exhibitions at Xavier Hufkens in Brussels mirrors his obsessively organized studio practice in Los Angeles, where a cavernous space is split into five separate workshops for woodworking, ceramics, drawing and collage, painting, and urethane. One show, “ECLPSE, features recent cardboard collages, while in a separate gallery space a series of mobile sculptures on are on display in SCALES.” The works, though rendered through quite different processes, draw on similar tropes and present a strong point of view through the use of low-grade items. It’s the kind of object lesson familiar to an artist who often chooses to use materials to make his point—Ruby has stated on multiple occasions that his use of textiles, ceramics, and nail acrylics were attempts to disrupt and recontextualize the traditionally gendered associations of those media.

For “ECLPSE,” Ruby, an art-world outlier who failed to graduate from his master’s program, takes an art-historical approach with a highly unconventional material. With deep tones and geometric shapes painted on scraps of cardboard taken from his studio floor, the works are, in the artist’s words, “abstract and formal, my attempt to connect to the historical lineage of Suprematism.”


In “SCALES,” he takes a similarly formal approach, creating large-scale mobiles on which geometric shapes and found objects—beer boxes, socks, a paint bucket, a bicycle helmet—are hung. These “pared down” works, the artist says, break from his more aggressively conceptual sculptural projects, like those based on Supermax prisons or the towering, twisting stalactites he constructed to widespread critical acclaim. An airiness is lent by the stuff they are made of: “They are also playful, in a way, which feels new to me.”

—M. Osberg


ECLPSE” and “SCALES” are on view at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Apr. 24–May 23, 2015.


Follow Xavier Hufkens on Artsy.

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