Sterling Ruby in the Ullens Collection: Beyond Boundries

@ Alserkal Avenue, Concrete Dubai UAE

An exhibition presented by the

Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation

Curated by Jerome Neutres

Project director: Victoria Gandit-Lelandais

Collection manager: Laurent Kinsinger


This exhibition is held under the patronage of

His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan

Pushing the boundaries between artistic mediums like no other contemporary artist, Sterling Ruby’s art practice demonstrates that it is not the medium which defines the artist, but his vision and statement. Since his work was notably remarked in the solo show “SUPERMAX” in 2008 at the Museum of Contemporary art of Los Angeles, Sterling Ruby has been developing a singular and very coherent world, through an unusual diversity of media. Ruby is first an inventor of forms, creating a new language dealing with the concepts of chaos, transgression, and a radical diversity. He integrates in his work street art, urban culture, craft, recycling objects, while reinterpreting the legacy of the conceptual art, as well as the abstract expressionism. Ruby embodies in that sense the synthesis of the American evolutions in art those last decades.

An American society divided between the mixed feelings of decline vs domination, wealth and recession, violence and peace movements. Using hard and soft materials, vaporous and shocking colors, flat and thick forms, Ruby questions the issues of the paradoxical America. This show is built around an extraordinary polyptych of Ruby’s signature spray paintings, the legendary SP paintings. Sterling Ruby discovered first the aerosol painting when he was young, as the medium for the grafiti art he enjoyed seeing on walls in California.

The artist will remember this technic to start his practice of large scale “expressionists” paintings in 2007. In essence, through his Spray-painting series, Sterling Ruby paid a tribute and reinvented Rothko’s work, using aerosol as a contemporary medium for XXIst Century paintings made in Los Angeles. Those vibrant paintings, looking like expansive fields of colors, are truly hypnotizing.

At a time when the art industry debates the concept of immersive art experiences, it is meaningful to highlight the natural immersive dimension of those works on canvas. The extra-large polyptych SP217 we present in this exhibition, is made of 5 giant canvases totalizing some 30 meters length. This is possibly the most immersive spray painting of Ruby, recalling that immersion and the subtility of the color difusion, the spectacular waterlilies installation by Monet at the Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris.

Born in 1972, Sterling Ruby grew up in a farm in Pennsylvania. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, USA, and counts today among the leading figures of contemporary art. His Spray paintings are considered masterpieces of the early XXIst Century. His works are part of numerous prestigious international public and private collections. Guy and Myriam Ullens started early to collect his works, through a direct and privileged relationship with the artist himself. Some of the works of this show were presented one time only at the UCCA-Ullens Contemporary Center for the Arts, Beijing, in 2014, in the framework of the remarkable exhibition The Los Angeles Project, featuring the emerging artistic stage of Los Angeles curated by Philip Tinari.

This exhibition in Concrete happens to be the very first one of Sterling Ruby in the Middle East.