Sterling Ruby’s new metal structures are fabricated from readily available construction materials, sheet metal, reinforcement bars (rebar), and angle bars. Steel is the most recycled material in the world. Scrap metal is melted down in large furnaces, and reformed to make materials suitable for new construction. The twisted metal of the reinforcement bars often come marked with their point of origin or factory insignia. The rebar used in these sculptures is inscribed with the tag – MEXICO. The artist has also welded his own tag into each of these pieces – SR10.
These pieces speak to the decay of the industrial heart of the American economy, and the power the country still maintains as the largest military-industrial complex in the world. Some of the pieces resemble models for sky-scrapers, while others resemble machine guns or rifles, some pieces suggest fragments of the American flag.
The metal works call to mind a number of influences including Russian Constructivism, brutalist architecture, and more obscurely the weapons series by the Arte Povera artist, Pino Pascali.
Throughout his practice, Ruby has confronted the limits of rationality and rebellious impulses of the untrained or liminal individual against the confines of social order. The conspicuous or bad welds incorporated into these works, sometimes referred to as pocked welds, are the kind made by unskilled or amateur welders, and prone to structural failure. As with his previous large metal sculpture Pig Pen, these raw metal works confront the contradictions and burdens within the precarious mechanisms of power.
Sterling Ruby (°1972) lives and works in Los Angeles, California, USA. Recent solo exhibitions include 2TRAPS at The Pace Gallery, New York (2010), Robert Mapplethorpe/Sterling Ruby at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (2009), The Masturbators at Foxy Production, New York (2009), Supermax 2008 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2008), CHRON at the Drawing Center, New York (2008) and Grid Ripper, Galleria d’arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy (2008).
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