Sterling Ruby @ Spruth Magers

A certain gallery in Mayfair should be feeling very relieved that I managed to find the time to visit the Sterling Ruby exhibition at Spruth Magers yesterday. I had not seen much that has impressed me recently and if it wasn’t for the show on Grafton Street I would have been posting a negative review of a very bland exhibition today.

The Ruby show at Spruth Magers stands out before you even have a chance to walk through the door. From outside a series of colourful suits entice the viewer into the gallery and out of the London rain. The exhibition is the first presentation of an eight-year survey of the textile and clothing production executed by Sterling Ruby. This is especially interesting, as for many, like myself, it was not the art world that first introduced me to Ruby’s work, but the fashion world, Dior to be precise.

Raf Simons, the former creative director of Dior has a long history of collaborating with Ruby. The artist designed the wall coverings for his first store in Tokyo and collaborated on a complete collection for Fall/Winter 2014. However, it is not high-end luxury fashion on display here, but clothes worn to work in.

Ruby’s first ‘work wear’ suit was made from left over fabric from his sculptural quilt projects and furniture production in 2008. It consisted of a button down shirt and pair of trousers to be worn in the studio. This production of ‘work wear’ soon became part of a routine of garment production made every time the artist finished an artwork.

The clothes are a mix of canvas and heavy weight denim that have been hand-dyed and treated with enzyme washes. Ruby grew up in rural Pennsylvania and has been strongly influenced by Amish quilts, which is visible in the bright yellows and pinks that clash against the cooler shades of blue and black. It is clear that the shirts, trousers, coats, ponchos and bags would easily blend into and camouflage with the interior of the artist’s studio.

The display of suits lined up against the wall of the main gallery with a row of canvas bags lying in front makes the clothes appear like an army going to war. Around the corner there are ponchos that are hung like canvases against the wall. I must admit, that it was not until afterwards that I realised the works were ponchos. I thought they were canvases with holes in, however the idea that these canvases could be worn makes them even more appealing. Also on view is a red apron with various patches sewn on, which is remarkably clean in comparison to the rest of the clothing on show.

Sterling’s suits will not be on display for much longer, so I suggest you take a look inside his wardrobe as quickly as you can!

Sterling Ruby: WORK WEAR is on display at Spruth Magers until 9th April

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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