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  • Provenance

    The Pace Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Switzerland
    Private Collection, USA

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ I like to think about art as being similar to poetry: it can’t be proven.” STERLING RUBY

    Sterling Ruby is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. He is known to work with a large range of mediums from his richly glazed biomorphic ceramics, poured urethane sculptures, collages, videos and as exemplified by the present lot, large spray-painted canvases. Having studied at the Pennsylvania School of Art & Design, his artistic background was focused on the more conventional medium of painting, something that to him became, ‘an outmoded genre with too much historical baggage’ (J. Deitch, The Painting Factory, Abstraction after Warhol, 2012, Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc. pg 190). Upon moving to Los Angeles, he found himself immersed within gang culture. He became infatuated with the art of tagging, which to him became a vision of abstraction: ‘All territorial clashes, aggressive cryptograms, and death threats were nullified into a mass of spray-painted gestures that had become nothing more than atmosphere, their violent disputes transposed into an immense, outdoor, nonrepresentational mural’, (J. Deitch, The Painting Factory, Abstraction after Warhol, 2012, Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc. pg 190).

    Ruby began to explore a violation on materials and social structures, accrediting subjects such as marginalized societies, modernist architecture, artefacts, graffiti, cults and urban gangs. In his large industrially-spray painted canvases, such as SP83, Ruby explores the gritty urban aesthetic of these materials with the minimalist form of the actual composition. The alignment of contemporary street graffiti and medium of art allows Ruby to question the canonical position and alleged lack of substance of American minimalist art, a theme also explored by Donald Judd.

    Of monumental scale and the largest painting of its series, SP83 is a result of Ruby’s radically gestural work that is richly abundant in layers and colour. The work is also characterized by an illusionistic abstraction, as the canvases from this series are actually never touched by a brush. The splatters and drips that sometimes appear across the canvas offer a sort of visible white noise, discerning an authenticity of a canvas that has not been tidied or fixed of any ‘mistakes’. The painting’s numerous layers of aerosol characterize a procedure of immersion and submersion: the canvas is first tagged with bright shades of paint and then, like a blanket, a somber coating of black paint laminates parts of the surface. SP83 indeed draws visual references to the colour masses of Mark Rothko’s paintings, and while both artists convey emotions through the turbulent colour fields, Ruby’s works have a raw quality to them that differ from Rothko’s profound and tempestuous emotion ridden paintings.

    Ruby transforms and re-associates the use of acrylic spray paint, a material usually associated with vandalism and rebellion, with the eminent of colour-field abstraction. These graffiti-based artworks are sublimely transversal, as they simultaneously embrace the elitism of abstract paintings whilst opposing it through the use of a cutting-edge, unconventional medium.



acrylic spray paint on canvas
317.5 x 469.9 cm. (125 x 185 in.)
Initialled, titled and dated 'SR09 'SP83'' on the reverse.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £602,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 16 October 2013