Sterling Ruby works prolifically in a wide range of mediums, from glazed biomorphic ceramics and poured urethane sculptures, to large-scale spray-painted canvases, nail polish drawings, collages and videos.
Through his varied practice he conducts an assault on materials and social structures, referencing subjects that include marginalised societies, maximum-security prisons, modernist architecture, artefacts and antiquities, graffiti, bodybuilders, the mechanisms of warfare, cults and urban gangs.
Monument Stalagmite/Headbanger (2008), Recondite (2007), Kiss Trap Kismet (2008) and the suggestively bloodied Headless Dick/Death Till (2008) are large enough to raise questions around sculpture’s assumed relationship to the human scale. In contrast to the pure conceptual forms of minimalism, Ruby’s messy aesthetic, with its spray marks, dripping paint and worn down edges presents iconoclastic graffitied objects as visceral, organic systems that possess a manmade quality and an allure despite their overt uglyness.
His works are unique hybrids of sources, media, glosses on tradition and autobiographical notation. “Recondite is modelled after a small desktop meditation fountain given to me by my mother. I had just come back from a trip to Germany [where Ruby was born], and I realized this small fountain reminded me of some of the fascist architecture I had just seen. The monument plays a big role in much of my work because it is defined as a structure built for the sole purpose of remembering something that has been lost. I came up with Recondite as a title, as it refers to esoteric or specialized knowledge. I was addressing the way artists of my generation felt trapped by a kind of post-modern burden of ideas, theories, and histories. It seemed impossible to make a sincere gesture anymore. This was my monument to all of that.”