Sterling Ruby at his 26th street studio, Los Angeles, from our new book

Sterling Ruby is signing his new book in Berlin

Want your Phaidon book inscribed by the artist? Then get over to his new show in the German capital

If you took the lighter side of arts and crafts and attempted to recreate them in an off-grid 1990s punk squat, you just might end up with something looking like the work of Sterling Ruby. The 44-year-old former pro skateboarder was born on a US Airforce base, grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and assisted Mike Kelley before striking out on his own, combining genteel media such as ceramics and sewing with earthier subjects such as gangs, high-security prisons and the military-industrial complex.

For his forthcoming show at Sprüth Magers in Berlin, entitled THE JUNGLE, Ruby has drawn on the work of the 20th century US Modernist Alexander Calder. Creating his own version of Calder’s mobiles, which he has christened SCALES, Ruby has turned the ambling, abstract kinetic sculptures into something a little more figurative and threatening, with chains, oil drums and other bits of studio detritus worked into the mix.


One of Sterling Ruby's SCALES from THE JUNGLE. Image courtesy of Sprüth Magers
One of Sterling Ruby's SCALES from THE JUNGLE. Image courtesy of Sprüth Magers

“At odds with the more mechanical elements of modernist aesthetics, the use of base, handmade elements gives a scrappy, craft-orientated finish,” explains the gallery. “Brightly coloured formal shapes evoke the orbiting celestial bodies of the solar system, while other elements – fragments of steel with raw welded edges, chains linked together to create beautiful drawn arcs, steel drums, engine blocks, buckets, pipes and baseball bats – suggest a grittier, industrial tenor.”

You can get a feel for that tenor, and even meet Sterling Ruby himself, later this month in the German capital. THE JUNGLE opens on the evening of 16 September, and Ruby will be over in the city for both this vernissage, and the launch of his new book which is part of our Contemporary Artist Series. Catch him 5-6pm at Image Movement, 18 Oranienburger Straße, for the book launch, where Ruby will be signing copies; the show’s opening runs at Sprüth Magers Oranienburger Straße 18, later that evening.