Ruth Claxton creates dynamic sculptural environments that employ a diverse range of tactics to investigate the theme of altered perceptions. Claxton constructs elaborate structures from metal hoops, mirrors and colored glass disks that simultaneously serve to frame the viewer’s interaction with the exhibition space and highlight the figurines nestled within them. The multiple reflective surfaces engender an instability that is at odds with the sturdy metal structures that support them.
Claxton begins with collectible porcelain figurines that are common in many middle-class English homes. These tiny sculptures depict a variety of subjects including birds, brides and ballerinas. Some appear to have stepped out of 18th century paintings of fêtes galantes. Through the application of beads, buttons, sequins, ribbons, and other materials, Claxton eradicates the figures’ sight. The choice of materials makes this blinding playful rather than sinister, and Claxton purports that the figures portrayed are enraptured, not traumatized by their lost of sight. This sense of disorientation is increased when the figurines are placed within Claxton’s maze-like structures.
Her 2009 installation Lands End, transformed the gallery at the Spike Island artists’ residency in Bristol. Sculptural groupings sprang from the ceilings, walls, and floors, surprising the viewer at every turn. Claxton’s configurations were sparsely placed within parts of the gallery and densely placed in others. This arrangement served to heighten the viewers’ awareness of the phenomenological aspect of engaging with sculpture and perhaps to create an experience as destabilizing as the one’s of the figurines within Claxton’s work.
Claxton will present a new body of work for her exhibition at SITE Santa Fe. Ruth Claxton’s work was included in the 2007 Venice Biennial and she has had solo exhibitions at the IKON Gallery, Birmingham, UK and Spike Island, Bristol, UK. Her exhibition at SITE Santa Fe will be her first solo show in the United States. Claxton lives and works in Birmingham, UK.