Art In America

Sterling Ruby

at Gagosian,
980 Madison Avenue

Sterling Ruby’s ceramic sculptures outmuscle the paintings in his new show at Gagosian. Basin Theology/Dark Plate Helm (2016) beckons the viewer to peer inside and see an exuberant blue and red vessel, shaped like a lifeboat and filled with mostly unrecognizable flotsam and jetsam, save for what appears to be a brown ashtray and cigar near the center. This touch reminded me of the small glossy ceramic “ashtrays” Ruby has made in the past, as well as Philip Guston’s cigars. Like many contemporary artists working with clay, Ruby is fixated on raw forms, heft, and traces of the hand. His deliberately clumsy and awkward cradles, totems, bins, and basins suggest something of Peter Voulkos’s roughhewn works of the 1950s, but with an updated infusion of irony and bold color. —Lindsay Pollock


Pictured: Sterling Ruby: BASKET (6176), 2016, ceramic, 12¼ by 35 by 14 inches. Courtesy Gagosian, New York. Photo Robert Wedemeyer.

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