Talking through his seminal, total-room artworks for Calvin Klein, the artist reveals something of the state of the nation, the joy of chrome, and why L.A. is the perfect city—because it isn’t real.

Sterling Ruby (born 1972) is an American artist who works in a wide range of aesthetic and material strategies.

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The impact is instantaneous; suspended from the entire ceiling appears to be the detritus of an explosion. Yet this detritus is pristine, tattered, chromed, colorful, cascading, threatening, and somehow joyful.

Is this what the inside of your head looks like?

“Probably,” shrugs Sterling Ruby.

We are, in fact, sitting inside an artwork by Ruby. This work, a permanent, total-room installation, exists on the ground floor of the Calvin Klein headquarters at 205 W39 NYC. It exists in the confines of a fashion company; indeed, this address will appear on the label of the garments that will emerge during the ready-to-wear show that will take place in this space in a few days’ time. It appears on the windows of the artwork, as well—Ruby also oversaw the facade of the building being repainted pitch black. Yet this room could quite as easily be transplanted to one of the world’s great galleries or museums, the places where the unfettered imaginings of Ruby are usually embraced, or more rightly, left to run riot.

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Gagosian Gallery

Sterling Ruby
March 1 through April 15

980 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10075

Hours: Tue–Sat 10-6

T. 212.744.2313
F. 212.772.7962

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“The psychosis of L.A. is so different,” he says; the artist frequently talks about pathologies and psychoses as related to cities, but it is something that can be seen as a metaphor for his own work. “Los Angeles is the perfect city because it is not a real city—it’s the geography and diversity of the place. When I first moved to L.A., I was fascinated by the extremely rural patches with people living on them, and then suddenly there could be a luxury high-rise condo. There are mountains with snow, the desert, downtown, and the beach—it’s a schizophrenic landscape.”

“I always wanted to chrome
a security door.”

And so too Ruby’s use of multiple mediums could be seen to be part of a “schizophrenic landscape”; from the connotations of feminine craft in ceramics and textiles to the hypermasculine sculptures and vast paintings—and then there are the crosses between the two, the soft sculptures and mobiles. It is a true mark of Sterling Ruby the artist that his signature is instantly recognizable in all mediums.

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Sterling Ruby, PHALANX, 2017 Ceramic (97.8 x 38.1 x 37.5 cm) Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy Sterling Ruby Studio. Sterling Ruby, CRUX. YELL., 2016 Acrylic, oil, elastic and fabric on canvas. (Painting: 144.8 x 110.5 x 5.1 cm) Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy Sterling Ruby Studio.
Sterling Ruby, HEART (6175), 2016 Ceramic (6.4 x 64.8 x 43.2 cm) Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy Sterling Ruby Studio. Sterling Ruby, Basin Theology/SAVRY, 2016 Ceramic (111.8 x 94 x 109.2 cm) Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy Sterling Ruby Studio.

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