David Kordansky Gallery is very pleased to announce Sculpture, an exhibition of new work by Ruby Neri. The show will run from July 7 through August 18, 2012. Neri’s work is marked by a commitment to figurative forms that are modeled expressively by hand and animated by the application of unabashed colors. Her practice, which includes painting, plaster and bronze sculpture, and ceramics, reveals an uncommon intimacy with the ebb and flow of diverse physical and mental energies.
This exhibition focuses exclusively on the artist’s recent object-based work, and will include sculptures that draw in equal measure from ceramics and painting, primitivism and modernism, and an array of West Coast figurative lineages. The objects are made from plaster, steel and clay, and marked with both paint and glazes. In scale they range from smaller, pedestal-based works to looming, life-sized figures that stride welcomingly toward the viewer.
Neri has long embraced a fluidity of forms and media, so that the objects that result are as much about mutability as they are about static conglomerations of material. For this reason, it is possible to read her work in terms of the devotional intensity common both to tribal and outsider art. (The sculptures on view in this exhibition bear a resemblance to Oceanic totems, for example.) At the same time, having come of age in the midst of the Bay Area Figurative Movement, and as an original member of the Mission School, Neri remains aware of the ways in which the art historical canon has absorbed certain tendencies that might previously have fallen outside of it.
The works in Sculpture make the most of this ability to key numerous, and even competing, formal reverberations with a single gesture. Neri’s use of ceramic vessels (and fragments of vessels) as figurative elements is a prime example. So while the torsos and hips of a number of works in the exhibition have been built like vases, their utility as functional objects has been repurposed. Rather than being used to contain other materials, these vessels act as structural supports, intermediary zones between the heads and legs of each figure.
The legs that support the vessels, on the other hand, have been treated in a variety of ways that allude directly to the functional properties of the substances of which they are made. In particular, figures whose legs are made from unadorned steel rods create an unlikely juxtaposition of strength and precarity. In other cases, the rods function as armatures, and have been covered with modeled plaster.
Regardless of the combinations of materials that constitute them, each of the sculptures provides numerous surfaces and textures for the application of paint. In fact, painting represents one of the main creative thrusts of the body of work. Whether developing and deepening the faces of the figures (and the attitudes they project), or experimenting with her own signature as a form of gesturation, Neri refuses to abide by accepted notions of the divisions between media, so that sculpture seems to lead to painting and vice versa.
By allowing herself such freedom, she creates the conditions for great emotional range. Her work has become recognized for its ability to channel both psychological expressiveness and profound optimism. In this respect, Neri’s vision is indicative of the kind of openness specifically associated with California, and even more broadly, an aesthetic position oriented toward the cultural, geographical, and spiritual expanses of the Pacific.
Ruby Neri is currently featured in Made in L.A. 2012, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Her work was also seen recently in American Exuberance, Rubell Family Collection, Miami; and At Home/Not at Home: Works from the Collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.