Sprüth Magers Berlin is pleased to present a new installation, I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME, from Los Angeles based artist Sterling Ruby. The exhibition will feature a large number of works including the artist’s paintings, collages, metal, bronze, ceramic, fiber, urethane and formica sculptures. This paranoid fantasy of an exhibition manifests itself in a series of works that incorporate the letters RWB not only within their titles, but also as a color scheme of red, white, and blue. It should not be necessary to point out that these are the colors that represent the United States of America. In using this acronym the artist creates a powerful dissociative reverie: USA becomes RWB.
The title for the exhibition, I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME, takes its name from a collaborative painting made in 1983 by Jenny Holzer and the graffiti artist, Lady Pink. Fascinated by this work for years, Ruby recently found that its self-referential slogan could be contextualized within current political discourse regarding terrorism, a reference to America’s obsession with freedom and whether it is hated for it. Ruby believes that the original work expresses a very real feeling of being caught in a universal war zone, but as with all of Holzer’s cryptic texts it contains an ambiguity, it can also be seen as expressing a kind of paranoid delusion.
The new installation draws a striking parallel to Ruby's SUPERMAX exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (2008). In this previous exhibition, the artist externalized the failures of the Supermaximum Penitentiary; a contemporary American prison system that focuses on detainment and isolation instead of correction or rehabilitation. Similarly, that exhibition explored the artist’s creative output as paranoia. The amount and variety of the works point to an excessive and schizophrenic personality, as if the very creation of this large volume of works held unseen predatory forces at bay. In the SUPERMAX exhibition the artist presented a claustrophobic installation that expressed the feeling of being incarcerated or trapped.
Throughout his practice, Ruby has been seeking ways to break from the traps inherent to the history of art making and society at large, a new way out. I AM NOT FREE BECAUSE I CAN BE EXPLODED ANYTIME shows Ruby seeking a visionary revelation, through an explosion of formalism that expresses a prophetic paranoia.
Concurrent with his show, the artist has curated a small exhibition from a selection of gallery artists whom he has found extremely influential including Robert Morris, Rosemarie Trockel, Jenny Holzer and Lady Pink. In choosing the works for this show, the artist has focused on pieces that exemplify current tensions between formalism and representation, chaos and order, with an undercurrent of punk and craft.