WORK WEAR: Garment and Textile Archive 2008-2016 will present for the very first time an eight year survey of the clothing and textile production made by Sterling Ruby.
In 2008 the artist designed a basic “work wear” button down shirt and a pair of jean-style pants to be worn in the studio. Made from the left over scraps from soft sculpture production and quilt projects, the heavy weight denim and canvas uniform quickly became a type of “studio camouflage”. Over the years that pattern has seen an almost ritualistic retelling of the countless textile projects that his studio has overseen. Each time a piece of artwork is finished a new set of unique one-off garments are made as a conclusion to the project. As a result, the garments are imbued with the precise treatments as the artworks—from the fabrics that are hand-dyed and hand-treated in Ruby’s studio yard, to the exotic enzyme washes researched and sourced from LA’s rich garment production industry.
The garments in the exhibition—coats, ponchos, bags, shirts, and pants—replay, recycle, and echo the remnants of fabrics used to create the artist’s quilts, collages, textiles and sculptures. A sense of recycling and breaking down utilitarian versus aesthetic hierarchies has evolved in the artist’s studio. Collages become quilts, quilts become soft sculptures, and sculptures become clothes. The Bauhaus movement, with its challenge to the design versus high art dichotomy, is an ever present touchstone for the artist and his seemingly inexhaustible forays into craft and design.
Growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, Amish quilts, with bright colors and geometric shapes, were early aesthetic influence. The artist’s mother, grandmother, and aunts were seamstresses who focused mostly on utilitarian clothing for the family. At the age of 12 Ruby’s mother gave him a sewing machine. As a teenager Ruby would piece together clothing with rudimentary and patchwork-like “non-utilitarian” construction, often referencing the post-punk movement.
The clothes on view are also a unique glimpse into the seeds of the artist’s feted collaborations with the fashion designer Raf Simons. In 2007, the artist designed the first Raf Simons store in Tokyo with bleached and splattered denim covering the walls from floor to ceiling and showcases echoing minimalist sculpture. This led to a capsule denim collection in 2009, and culminated in the full-fledged collaborative collection RAF SIMONS | STERLING RUBY Fall/Winter 2014.
Sterling Ruby was born on an American Air Force base in Bitburg, Germany in 1972. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Public collections include Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Tate, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
Solo exhibitions include “CHRON,” The Drawing Center, New York (2008); “SUPERMAX 2008,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2008); “Grid Ripper,” Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo (2008-09); “SOFT WORK,” Centre D’Art Contemporain, Geneva (2012, traveled to FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims; Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm; and Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome); “CHRON II,” Fondazione MEMMO, Rome (2013, traveled to Kunsthalle Mainz); “DROPPA BLOCKA,” Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Ghent (2013); and “Sterling Ruby,” Baltimore Museum of Art (2014).
In 2014, Ruby exhibited at the Taipei Biennial, the Gwangju Biennial, and the Whitney Biennial. Upcoming exhibitions include the biennial MADE IN L.A. 2016 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and a solo exhibition at the Winterpalais, Belvedere Museum, Vienna, Austria.
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