Sterling Ruby “2 Traps” at pace wildenstein

Until March 20

For his first installation at PaceWildenstein, Sterling Ruby has transformed a public transportation vehicle into a ready-made sculpture titled BUS, outfitted with a series of interior solitary confinement cages, speakers, sub-woofers, chrome fixtures, and exterior security doors. Inside this muted, claustrophobic environment, notions of excess and suppression are heightened to new extremes.  Situated nearby, and mirroring BUS in scale (each sculpture measures approximately 10' x 9' x 40'), PIG PEN is a massive rectangular grid configured from a series of smaller custom-built rectangular blocks. Each individual block is comprised of four metal security doors, identical to those found on homes in urban environments. Both of these sculptural traps act symbolically as relics of a tarnished past, signals of a stagnating present, and warnings for an apocalyptic future.


In Max Weber’s book, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, he describes the end result of contemporary society’s adherence to rationality, reason, and progress as the iron cage of modernity. The consequence, Weber claimed, was a technically ordered, rigid, dehumanized society, governed by one set of rules, which limits human freedom and individuality. He argued that society at large was ultimately responsible for changing the social bureaucracies it created.

Throughout Sterling Ruby’s diverse practice, he has sought to breach the dichotomy of liberation and repression. In constructing these places of confinement and stagnation, the artist confronts contemporary isolation in the face of the social structures that create it. BUS and PIG PEN are physical allegories for the powerful traps that human beings construct for themselves and metaphorical manifestations of marginal places that exist outside the past, present, or future. The sculptures reinforce society’s need for recognition and transformation.