- Sterling Ruby
- signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 08 on the reverse
- acrylic and spray paint on canvas, mounted on foldable stretcher
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sale: Sotheby's London, Contemporary Art, 16 October 2009, lot 129
Collection Alain & Candice Fraiberger
Sterling Ruby is a Los Angeles based artist who works in a wide variety of media; indeed, the vast diversity of his output has become one of his signatures. From heavy, ceramic vessels and bulging soft sculptures, to collage-based paintings and aerosol based works, Ruby's aesthetic is difficult to pin down. It is both expansive and seemingly ever-expanding. As Gea Politi noted in a 2014 article for Flash Art, "[Ruby's] work is as complex as the American empire. It addresses numerous topics, 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." Working through this many topics in as many media, it is perhaps no surprise that Ruby has garnered significant attention for his broad-based and prolific practice.
Ruby's SP 30 privileges color, gesture, and action in a way that is reminiscent of the work of American Abstract Expressionists. Chief among them is Jackson Pollock, whose rich fields of overlapping spatters of paint are so iconic. It seems that there are analogies to be made in both the visuality and the physicality of Jackson's and Ruby's works. Both men work largely, creating dense and abstract fields. The taxing physical nature of these projects is also mirrored in the work of urban graffiti writers who provide Ruby with further inspiration. Graffiti writers use their bodies similarly, often working at challenging scales, and of course, under the cloak of illegality.
Began as a series in 2007, Ruby's spray paintings are meant to refer back to the practice of tagging territory. Graffiti writers use a variety of materials, but chiefly, spray paint, to inscribe their name, symbol, or sign on the surfaces of their streets. Still heavily associated with gang activities in urban cities like Los Angeles, graffiti serves an underground function—to claim and identify space, demarcating lines of ownership and belonging. In Ruby's hands, the tagger's aerosol can seem to get the best of him: instead of producing images that define space and self, Ruby's spray paint descends into a murky field, where nothing is communicated, nothing is clear. These spray painted works, then, become something of a statement of the artist's post-modern position, an affirmation of a certain lack of certainty. Though monumentally sized and visually bold, SP 30 maintains a steadfast ambiguity.