PaceWildenstein, the rapidly expanding temple to post-war American art, added Sterling Ruby, an artist with what some would call new blood, to its roster in 2009. With the opening of his first solo exhibition, 2Traps, at the 22nd Street space on Thursday night, the gallery laid claim to the young artist’s legacy, one that increasingly focuses on theories of entrapment. Pace icons like Chuck Close and Alex Katz mingled in the space between the two installations in the exhibition, Pig Pen and Bus. Created using a public transportation vehicle painted black and splattered with graffiti, the interior of Bus is outfitted with solitary confinement chambers and sub woofers, making it both a metaphorical space of imprisonment and an apocalyptic version of a rap star’s tour bus. Pig Pen exposes the metal cells of Bus and stacks them on top of one another, creating a rectangle that is reinforced by green, pink and orange lines that divide the piece into smaller geometric spaces. The effect of the installation was best summed up by Corban Walker, who said, “It feels quite intimidating. But I like Ruby’s color.”
Although the open doors of both pieces beckon viewers to participate in what Ruby would call the excess and suppression of claustrophobic spaces, guests seemed content to remain within the prison of their own choosing, the confines of the white walls of the gallery.
The party continued at The Eighteenth Floor of the Standard Hotel, the now obvious location for an elite art world after party. Set high above the city, the lounge commands the streets below, the reflection of the golden arches of the bar on the windows drowning out privileged views of the Empire State Building. References to the gilded age abounded, but the crowd frayed in the wake of the glamour. Ruby claims that his pieces stand for allegorical manifestations of spaces outside of time, one can only hope that his work will do more than stay firmly rooted in the fading present.