Gagosian is pleased to present “Our Friend Fluid Metal,” Nancy Rubins' first exhibition of major sculptures in New York since the presentation of Big Pleasure Point by the Public Art Fund at Lincoln Center in 2006.
Rubins' awe-inspiring sculptures are predicated on synthesis, radically articulated mass, and explosive ideas in three dimensions. Geological in scope and metastatic in formation, these rhizomatic structures brim with dark energy, pointing to the inexorable proliferation of manmade refuse. Objects clustered by way of strategic engineering resemble organic reactions; forms mimic living things that grow, mutate, and multiply as defiant growths bursting from tensile constraints, their power enhanced by sheer scale and precarious balance.
Rubins' gigantic, physically overwhelming assemblages sit between the oppositional traditions of monumental sculpture, both figurative and abstract, and intimist bricolage that emphasizes the aesthetic possibilities of everyday found objects. In her use of scrap materials and the individual artistic decisions governing their accumulation, Rubins engages the work of Schwitters in the same sweep as that of Picasso and the Cubists; however by combining these elements in a fashion that is as improbable as it is spectacular, she recasts humble materials as the fantastic residue of baroque fantasy, sliced through with a strong dose of surrealist disbelief.
The title of the exhibition and its sculptures “Our Friend Fluid Metal” invokes the currency and mutability of aluminum scrap recycled through changing historical, social, and economic conditions; the playground critters that are the building blocks or cells of the new sculptures are made with aluminum reconstituted from military planes. A constellation of four sculptures of varying scale present a carnivalesque riot of found color and form, clustered in webs of compression and tension. The largest, which measures 17 x 42 x 24 feet, breaks out of a wall and looms overhead, a sculptural cumulus that makes light of its expected permanence and weight via a system of compound steel trusses and tension cables. Smaller scale works rise from a single point on the ground and balloon into the air. The nonsense terms that form their titles—Chunkus Majoris, Paquito, and Spiral Ragusso—point to the lighter side of scientific taxonomy.
Nancy Rubins was born in Naples, Texas; raised in Tullahoma, Tennessee; and studied at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore (BFA, 1974) and the University of California, Davis (MFA, 1976). She currently lives and works in Topanga Canyon, California. Public collections include Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and FRAC Bourgogne, France. Solo exhibitions include Museum of Modern Art, New York (1995); Aspen Art Museum (1997); ARTPACE, San Antonio (1997); Miami Art Museum (1999); Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris (2002); FRAC Bourgogne, France (2005); SculptureCenter, Long Island City, New York (2006); Lincoln Center, New York (2006); and Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro (2014). Rubins’ large-scale outdoor sculptures are on permanent display at leading institutions throughout the world, including MOCA Los Angeles; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; and Université Paris Diderot.
Nancy Rubins and Eric Shiner
The pair discuss Nancy Rubins’s unique approach to sculpture, in which industrial and found objects—such as television sets, airplane parts, and carousel animals—are transformed into engineered abstractions that are at once otherworldly and familiar.
Conclusions Never Reached: Nancy Rubins in Fluid Space
Sara Softness reflects on a new series of sculptures by Nancy Rubins, Fluid Space (2019–21), “visual poems” that hint at the invisible and the unknown.
Nancy Rubins: Exploring Form
Join Nancy Rubins at her California studio as she speaks about her working process and the abiding interests in space, depth, and the residues of time that have informed her sculptures and drawings.
Behind the Art
Nancy Rubins: Drawing in Graphite
Filmed during the installation of Nancy Rubins’s latest exhibition, Diversifolia, this video provides a rare look at one of the artist’s large-scale, graphite drawings.
Work in Progress
In the summer of 2017, Laura Fried took a trip to Nancy Rubins’s awe-inspiring studio in Topanga Canyon, CA. In this essay, she recounts her visit, detailing Rubins’s latest sculptures and the history of the studio.
Works for New Space, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome I & II
July 16–September 3, 2010