Sterling Ruby: WIDW (2018)
80 pp, ills colour, 30 x 25 cm, hb
Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Xavier Hufkens 7 September - 20 October 2018
The WIDW paintings (an acronym for ‘window’), are executed in acrylic, oil paint, and collaged fragments of cardboard and textile on canvas. In their composite nature, they closely relate to the DRFTRS works on paper. But the materials used in this series reflect yet another form of archaeology: the excavation of the artist’s studio. Of this Ruby has said: ‘I realised that I could use my own history and older bodies of work as this kind of archaeological legacy.’ In much the same way that he mines his visual archive, Ruby sifts through this accumulated detritus and combines these memory-laden materials with thickly painted layers of red, orange, yellow, chalky whites, and deep blacks. The tension between oppositional forces — such as movement and stasis or minimalism and maximalism — is a hallmark of Ruby’s oeuvre. In the WIDW series this can be seen in the contrast between the energetic brushstrokes and structure of the grid, or the imposition of the past on the present. The applied graphic elements that bisect the WIDW paintings are also linked to recurrent themes in his work: horizons, grids, flags, prison bars, and in this series specifically, windows. Our vantage point is deliberately ambiguous: are we looking out or looking in? Like Rorschach tests, we are left to determine for ourselves whether these are apocalyptic visions of a burning world, or the internal projections of the human mind.