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  • Provenance

    Ringier Collection, Zurich
    Private Collection, Switzerland

  • Catalogue Essay

    SP04, executed in 2007, is an early evocative and electrifying example of Sterling Ruby’s illustrious and prolific Spray Paint series, the fourth in a seminal body of work comprised of monumental paintings. Auratic in vigour and sublime in execution, SP04 offers a panoramic perspective into a physical landscape and social climate, manipulated by the hand of human intervention. Within this particular epoch of artistic production, Ruby demonstrates a preoccupation with gang tagging, street expressionism and urban demarcation while simultaneously heralding the work of Abstract Expressionist and Colour Field artistic giants of the twentieth century.

    Speckled across a vast expanse of fuchsia, lime green and scarlet, a profoundly expressionist handling paradoxically propagates a distinctly urban aesthetic. An insignia of instability and turbulence, clashing hues confront and confuse as Ruby couples visually opposing colours. Trails of vertical blots punctuate the canvas, bisecting two inclined horizontal tracks rendered in black. Meanwhile, a multitude of dots drizzle into a sea of crimson at the base of the colossal canvas. The upright linear arrangement of daubs infers works such as Peter Doig’s Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like), 1996, a painting concerned with existentialism and the position of humanity within the world. Growing up in Quebec, like Ruby, Doig was captivated by his wooded surroundings, as well as the integration of urban and rural life.

    Influenced by urban demarcation, vandalism and the resistance faced by graffiti gang culture, Ruby draws upon autobiographical, art historical and sociological references as a point of departure for his creative output. At a young age Ruby visited an exhibition of New York graffiti art in Rotterdam, sparking a long-term exploration of aerosol artworks and the street art vernacular. Later residing in Los Angeles, Ruby found himself surrounded by civic architecture and municipal structures whose surfaces were inscribed with an abundance of hegemonic scrawls. Often symbolising the struggle of the marginalised, the ostracised and the politically engaged, the American graffiti tradition asserts resistance and rebellion; a practice of action painting that hallmarks the dissidence and anarchism of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s graffiti legacy.

    Drawing the viewer’s attention to the very act of painting, Ruby’s Spray Paint series is autonomous and profoundly self-aware. With Jackson Pollock-esque splatters, hues coalesce and bleed in a manner reminiscent of Mark Rothko and Morris Louis. Ruby resignifies abstraction with the contemporaneity of urban street culture, prompting New York Times critic Roberta Smith to describe Ruby’s work as ’Gangsta Rothkos.’ Through his Colour Field and urban inquiry, Ruby instils a unique visual lexicon with contemporary connotations that offer a biting social commentary.

    A non-hierarchical and boundless practice fusing opposing concepts with contradictory cultural cues, Ruby has achieved critical acclaim through a multifaceted and varied practice. Ruby’s works reside in prominent collections worldwide, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, striking a visual cord internationally with his adept harnessing of street art and painterly tradition.



signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 'SR "SP04" 07' on the reverse
spray paint on canvas
244 x 213.5 cm (96 1/8 x 84 in.)
Executed in 2007.

£350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for £461,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017