Sterling Ruby - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Metro Pictures, New York

  • Exhibited

    Beijing, Ullens Center of Contemporary Art, Stray Alchemists, April 12-June 29, 2008

  • Literature

    K. Fowle, Stray Alchemists, Beijing, Ullens Center of Contemporary Art, 2008, p. 101 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Los Angeles based artist Sterling Ruby is known for his richly glazed biomorphic ceramics, poured urethane sculptures, hypnotic videos, and, as exemplifed by the present lot, monumental spray-painted canvases. Ruby’s radically gestural work, SP 17, 2008, borrows aesthetics from various ideologies in its chromatic schemes and the qualities of its materials. Here vibrant striations of acrylic spray paint span the length of this horizontal work in a multifaceted ocean of color and form. A bright yellow band stretches across the lower horizontal edge, like the infnite length of a dune, while a thick nebulous and blackened wave drenches the center. Slow drips of pigment fall vertically down the canvas, pooling along the extreme edges in a thick black border. The overlaying of the random drips with the atmospheric landscape in the background creates a tension across the surface of the canvas. The painting’s many layers of aerosol represent a process of immersion and submersion; the canvas is first tagged with intense hues of neon paint, and then a prison-like barrier of black paint blankets the surface.

    The sheer monumentality of the canvas, almost eleven feet long, appears as an illusionistic abstraction; the canvases from this series are actually never touched by a brush. The splatters and drips that glide along the canvas offer a kind of visible white noise, demonstrating Ruby’s hand and suggesting he does not attempt to tidy or fix any “mistakes.” The bands seem to vibrate and pulsate with vivacity as they stretch, writhe, and breathe across the expansive latitude of SP 17, 2008. The use of acrylic spray paint, usually associated with vandalism and rebellion, becomes re-associated with the sublime of color-field abstraction. These graffiti-based spray paintings are eminently transversal as they both embrace the elitism of abstract painting, while also opposing it through the use of a prosaic medium.


SP 17

acrylic on canvas
90 x 134 in. (228.6 x 340.4 cm)
Initialed, titled, and dated “SP 17 SR. 08” on the reverse.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $626,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York