With a mid-Frieze-week solo opening in his home city, and a current installation in the California desert, Sterling Ruby has been busy. Ruby’s neon orange monolith, SPECTER, is more like a behemoth of color. The Whitewater installation is filling Instagram feeds everywhere, despite being too radiant at times for standard iPhone cameras to capture. The satellite installation is part of Desert X, one of this year’s many echoing events where curators have drawn inspiration from Bombay Beach Biennale since it first brought contemporary art to the shores of the Salton Sea in 2014.
DAMNATION, Ruby’s first Sprüth Magers solo opening in LA, is a display of both sculpture and social commentary. The gallery’s second floor holds a new body of Ruby’s sculptural work. The large, animal-like, Jurassic heads, titled SKULLS, are a colorful ode to Cerberus, a multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld in Greek mythology.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is STATE (2019), Ruby’s first video in 10 years. The piece is a single-channel video projection documenting 5 years of Ruby’s work, filming helicopter aerial views of the 35 seemingly endless adult state prisons of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, juxtaposed against stunning topography. The 30-minute film, the score of which is an original drum-beat by the artist himself, evokes feelings of a quintessential Sterling Ruby – haunting and spectacularly beautiful. We asked Ruby what he felt about prison reform in today’s zeitgeist and whether or not he feels it’s moving in the right direction.
“I've been thinking about prisons in my work for the past two decades,” the artist told L’Officiel USA. “Particularly the physical manifestations of power structures, the psychological aspect of incarceration reflected through the architecture. I am heartened that both conservatives and liberals are seeing the need for criminal justice reform. Highlighting bail inequities is another important step. No one should be allowed to remain in jail awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail. I'm donating the proceeds of STATE to the ACLU, whose Smart Justice initiative aims to reduce incarceration by half in the US.”
DAMNATION is on view at Sprüth Magers Los Angeles from February 13, 2019 – March 23, 2019.