Turn the corner here after the first batch of closely hung frames you see, and you enter the embodiment of density… density to the max, as it were. Stuffed fabric drips from the frosted glass of high windows, almost meeting – at their tips – the tops of slick red and black stalagmites propped on matching bases with plywood that reads things like "the bride", "debthead", and "skulldragged."
Spelunking through this little ecosystem and the materials of which it is composed – nail polish, Formica, PVC – one negotiates an appropriation of seriality, of the pedestal, of the relationship of an artwork to its viewer. The work reads as a riff on Minimalism, certainly, but not so much in terms of antagonism, not really in terms of debt. Ruby doesn't seem oppressed by the past, and his room doesn't feel redundant; it quotes itself as much as it culls from art history.
The serial forms in the room – mostly rectangles– echo the kind of sentiment expressed by Eva Hesse: "if something is absurd, it's much more exaggerated, more absurd if it's repeated." Pedestals maybe begin as such, but soon become sculptures here, through the markings on their surfaces, which range from fingerprints to a smoking gun in a scratched-in heart. They then morph into large boxy shapes stacked, cut out, solid, inscribed.
If Minimalist artworks gave Michael Fried the feeling of being "crowded by the silent presence of another person", here that sculptural companion is not at all quiet: one,Time Machine, a sweaty grid of plywood on a pool of solid black Formica, uses its structure to say: "The past has cheated me. The present torments me. The future terrorfies me." It's funny, because Ruby doesn't seem scared.
(Images top to bottom: Sterling Ruby, Superoverpass, 2007, Formica, wood, screws, glue, 88 x 32 x 48 inches, courtesy the artist and Foxy Production, New York, photo by Mark-Woods.com; Sterling Ruby, installation view of MOCA Focus, "Sterling Ruby, SUPERMAX 2008", 2008, photo by Brian Forrest, courtesy of MOCA; Sterling Ruby, Headless Dick, 2008, Formica, 150 x 180 feet, courtesy the artist and Foxy Production, New York, photo by robert Wedemeyer)