Sterling Ruby: DRFTRS (2018)
108 pp, ills colour, 30 x 25 cm, hb
Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Xavier Hufkens 7 September - 20 October
Ruby’s DRFTRS and WIDW series are two ever-evolving bodies of work that bear witness to the artist’s intense relationship with materials and his interest in issues such as sociocultural evolution, popular culture, and violence. Executed on paper, the DRFTRS (an acronym of ‘drifter’) are hybrid collages in which cut-and-pasted images occupy expressionistic landscapes. These nomadic elements, drifting through painterly space, are extracted from a vast image bank compiled by the artist. They reveal a myriad of current preoccupations including protest posters, horror movies, arts and crafts, album covers, orchids and poppies, snakeskins, stalagmites and stalactites, skulls and bones, prisons, archaeological excavations, and ancient artefacts. The painted backdrops, in palettes of red and green; red, white and blue; oranges; yellows; and murky blacks, veer from dense and apocalyptic to sparse and vibrant. Combined with the photographic images, they create a psychological tension that channels the contemporary zeitgeist. Ruby has described collage as an ‘illicit merger’, thereby highlighting the transgressive nature of the medium. He makes a visual and conceptual link, for example, between those incarcerated in the American prison system, and images from archaeological sites, equating both to burial. In this sense, the collages are analytical and emotive, an exercise in social dissection that inhabits a haunting formalism, heightened by stark and splattered brushwork, and a visceral use of colour.