I am interested in the balance, the engineering and tenuousness of the objects, as well as the dynamic tension and energy. . . . A continuum starts happening with one piece attached to another . . . the way that crystals or cells grow. I’m interested in the bigger picture.
Gagosian is pleased to present Diversifolia, an exhibition of new sculpture and drawings by Nancy Rubins. This is Rubins’s first solo exhibition in London.
Rubins transforms found objects and industrial refuse into expertly orchestrated abstractions that are fluid and rhizomatic in nature. Achieving this expressive fluidity at such a large scale requires precise engineering; in her recent work, she has employed a structural property called “tensegrity,” wherein individual parts are arranged in balanced compression and secured with tensile cables. Clusters of like objects—airplane parts, boats, carousel creatures, and more—seem to explode into space in all directions, propelled by their aggregated momentum.
In the scientific names of plants, “diversifolia” indicates a single species possessed with a considerable variety of leaf. Rubins’s sculptures, though devoid of leaves per se, are bouquet-like arrangements comprised of a wide range of animal forms—giraffes, storks, tortoises, crocodiles, wolves, and hogs—cast in iron, bronze, brass, and aluminum. Though easily recognizable for their intended use in garden decor or signage, Rubins treats the sculptures as purely formal, abstracted components: limbs and tails become flower-like Baroque arabesques in Hog de la Ivy (2016–17); tortoise shells create a cloud-like foundation from which rectangular bases and silvered hogs emerge; and the sharp antlers in Agrifolia Major (2017) give way to the animated curls of crocodile tails. Rubins also responds to the imperfections of the sculptural elements, their conspicuous seams and erratic welding influencing aesthetic and structural decisions such as where to place the drilled holes that allow the cables to zigzag through and bind the cantilevered components within the sculpture.
Reversing the scale relationship between sculpture and viewer, a selection of smaller maquettes cast in bronze and aluminum allow Rubins’s calculated compositional decisions to be observed all at once, impossible when circumnavigating the towering assemblages. From the sprawling sculptures to the large-scale graphite drawings—burnished swathes of paper undulating from the walls—Rubins suggests an endless continuum between the chaos and coolness of modernism and the élan vital of the organic.
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.
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.
Nancy Rubins: Our Friend Fluid Metal
Hurtling through time and space, Nancy Rubins captures aluminum orbiting in a delicate point of transition.
Sculpture in the City 2019
June 2019–April 2020
Various locations in London
Nancy Rubins’s Crocodylius Philodendrus (2016–17) has remained on view in London’s Square Mile to be featured again in Sculpture in the City, an annual urban sculpture park. Clusters of animal forms are arranged in balanced compression and secured with tensile cables. “Tensegrity,” the term for the structural property that Rubins employs, galvanizes the aluminum, brass, bronze, and cast iron animals into purely formal, abstract components that propel into space due to their aggregate momentum. The work is from her series Diversifolia, which was first exhibited last year at Gagosian, Britannia Street, London.
Nancy Rubins, Crocodylius Philodendrus, 2016–17 © Nancy Rubins. Photo: Lucy Dawkins
Our Friend Fluid Metal
July 17–September 13, 2014
West 21st Street, New York
Works for New Space, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Monochrome I & II
July 16–September 3, 2010
Skins, Structures, Landmasses
June 3–July 9, 2010
Chas’ Stainless Steel, Mark Thompson’s Airplane Parts, About 1000 Pounds of Stainless Steel Wire, and Gagosian’s Beverly Hills Space
September 13–October 27, 2001