press release

Xavier Hufkens is proud to announce the exhibition Sterling Ruby & Robert Mapplethorpe. In his first solo exhibition at the gallery, Sterling Ruby enters into dialogue with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Alongside a highly personal selection of photographs by Mapplethorpe, the artist takes the opportunity to create new collages entitled Transcompositional and shows sculptures in various materials including several from the series Acts.

Sterling Ruby is attracted to Mapplethorpe's work because of "(…) the choice of subject matter and the contrast between marginal subcultures and the formal beauty of his flowers and still lifes". The formal beauty of Mapplethorpe's work is fascinating, but it also raises questions about the motives of the artist. Does he want to create distance from his subjects? Is he a collector? Are flowers, penises and bodies one and the same for him? The work of Sterling Ruby explores control and the concealment of subjectivity. His collages entitled Transcompositional are based on maximum-security prisons like Pelican Bay and Guantanamo. Yet there is almost nothing in them that refers to isolation or prison life. The collages consist of a pattern of nail varnish on a background of mirrored paper. They also contain photographs of transsexuals. The relationship of the artist with his subject is far from clear. Is he playing the role of a predator? A prisoner? A schizophrenic?

Ruby strives towards a transgression of fixed identities. He departs from preformed dichotomies such as beauty/marginality, architecture/vandalism, Zen/subculture. These contradictions are perverted in his artworks. Thus, the sculptures from the series Acts consist of two parts, which together form a contradictory whole. The square, geometric pedestals bear traces of graffiti. The sculptures themselves are an explosion of liquid and solid colour held fast in a block of urethane. Their form eludes liquid and solid, volume and colour, beauty and abjection.

Sterling Ruby's work opens and closes meanings. It stimulates new suppositions about art and irrational readings of his work and the work of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Sterling Ruby (1972) lives and works in Los Angeles, California. In 2008, his solo exhibitions included Supermax 2008 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CHRON at the Drawing Center, New York and Kiln Works at Metro Pictures, New York. Recent group exhibitions include Substraction at Deitch Projects, New York (2008), the Moscow Biennial (2007), the California Biennial and Red Eye: LA Artists at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2006).

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Sterling Ruby & Robert Mapplethorpe