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Sterling Ruby: I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE… at Sprth Magers Berlin

April 11, 2011

I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME is the title of a new installation, the Los Angeles based artist Sterling Ruby is currently presenting at the gallery Sprth Magers in Berlin.

Regular viewers of our program will know the work of Sterling Ruby, as VernissageTV covered several group shows the artist was participating in: Abstract America at Saatchi Gallery, London; Portugal Arte 10, Lisbon; Misericordia at Prism, Los Angeles; and Art 40 Basel Art Unlimited, Basel.

Sterling Ruby’s show at Sprth Magers Berlin features a large number of works including paintings, collages, and sculptures.The title of the exhibition, I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME, takes its name from a painting that Jenny Holzer and the graffiti artist Lady Pink created collaboratively in 1983.

Sterling Ruby was born in Bitburg, Germany. He studied at the Pennsylvania School of Art & Design, Lancaster, PA; the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; and the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA.

Photo set and press release are available after the jump.

Sterling Ruby: I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME at Sprth Magers Berlin. Opening reception, April 7, 2011.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

Photo set on Flickr:

Press release:
Sprth Magers Berlin is pleased to present a new installation, I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME, from Los Angeles based artist Sterling Ruby. The exhibition will feature a large number of works including the artist’s paintings, collages, metal, bronze, ceramic, fiber, urethane and formica sculptures. This paranoid fantasy of an exhibition manifests itself in a series of works that incorporate the letters RWB not only within their titles, but also as a color scheme of red, white, and blue. It should not be necessary to point out that these are the colors that represent the United States of America. In using this acronym the artist creates a powerful dissociative reverie: USA becomes RWB.
The title for the exhibition, I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME, takes its name from a collaborative painting made in 1983 by Jenny Holzer and the graffiti artist Lady Pink. Fascinated by this work for years, Ruby recently found that its self-referential slogan could be contextualized within current political discourse regarding terrorism, a reference to America’s obsession with freedom and whether it is hated for it. Ruby believes that the original work expresses a very real feeling of being caught in a universal war zone, but as with all of Holzer’s cryptic texts it contains an ambiguity, it can also be seen as expressing a kind of paranoid delusion.

The new installation draws a striking parallel to Ruby’s SUPERMAX exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (2008). In this previous exhibition, the artist externalized the failures of the Supermaximum Penitentiary; a contemporary American prison system that focuses on detainment and isolation instead of correction or rehabilitation. Similarly, that exhibition explored the artist’s creative output as paranoia.

The amount and variety of the works point to an excessive and schizophrenic personality, as if the very creation of this large volume of works held unseen predatory forces at bay. In the SUPERMAX exhibition the artist presented a claustrophobic installation that expressed the feeling of being incarcerated or trapped.

Throughout his practice, Ruby has been seeking ways to break from the traps inherent to the history of art making and society at large, a new way out. I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME shows Ruby seeking a visionary revelation through an explosion of formalism that expresses a prophetic paranoia.

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