Foundations: Sterling Ruby

February 2, 2019 - April 14, 2019

The Foundations series of installations and exhibitions at the Nasher Sculpture Center complements, contextualizes, and expands upon the featured exhibition on view. For Foundations: Sterling Ruby, the artist has selected works that provide insights into his deep ties to Modernism and highlight aspects of these historical precursors that still resonate today.

Ruby’s expansive practice offers a reassessment, critique, and reinvention of a variety of Modernist strategies with works that 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, often inscribed with obscure words and acronyms reminiscent of graffiti, reconsiders the conceptual and esthetic purity of Minimalism through materials that recall run-down domestic or industrial interiors. His SCALES, such as the one in the center of this gallery, challenge the whimsy and buoyancy of Alexander Calder’s invention of the mobile with the random detritus of contemporary life. Downstairs, one can see that Ruby’s fabric and fiberfill sculptures maintain the approachability of Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures while suggesting darker readings.

The artist’s selection of works from the Nasher and other local collections in this gallery includes works that can be seen as important precursors to Ruby’s own sculptures or resonant with his artistic concerns. His interest in collage and the reanimation of discarded objects finds predecessors in Anthony Caro’s and David Smith’s welded steel constructions and Ivan Puni’s found-object collage, as well as Pablo Picasso’s and Peter Voulkos’s ceramic assemblages.  The heavily worked surfaces of Willem de Kooning’s and Joan Miró’s sculptures  echo in Ruby’s ceramics and Exhumation works, while Lynda Benglis’s cast of a poured sculpture serves as an important point of departure for Ruby’s interest in the frozen gesture.  Moreover, selections of works by Joseph Beuys and Ana Mendieta reflect Ruby’s visceral connection to materials and their potential meanings.