Drip-spattered dirty monumental effigies to America dominate Sterling Ruby’s first show with Hauser & Wirth. However, the Los Angeles-based artist isn’t paying homage to the land of the free; rather, he’s exposing his misgivings.
Enormous urethane sculptures are displayed alongside debris-encrusted collages. Akin to stalagmites and missile weaponry, the floor pieces derive a corporeal quality from the poured red, white and blue pigments that run, sweat-like, down their surfaces. These glistening forms are branded with their own titles, ‘We Luv Strugglin’, ‘The Pot is Hot’, and ‘Drag On’, honouring the protest slogan. Ruby also uses acronyms to reference the very government agencies he’s questioning, most blatantly in ‘CDCR’ – California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations.
There are odes to American craft in his quilt-like soft fabric sculptures. ‘Pile (4129)’ slouches on the floor, its stars and stripes material oozing red droplets, while the bulbous form of ‘Husbands + Drops (4133)’ hangs from th gallery ceiling like a disemboweled cuddly toy.
If only the exhibition's slick production had taken on more of the works grungy poetics, Ruby would be as much of a superpower as the organisations he's poking at.