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Kunsthalle Mainz presents Monica Bonvicini & Sterling Ruby exhibition

Kunsthalle Mainz presents Monica Bonvicini & Sterling Ruby a double exhibition on view through February 2, 2014. Bonvicini and Ruby are among the most prominent artists in the international contemporary art world and the Kunsthalle is pleased to be able to bring their work to Mainz.

Bonvicini and Ruby share an interest in themes of aggression, repression, sexuality, and violence, expressing authoritarian relationships through architecture. Buildings not only provide protection, they are also instruments of dominance. Power relationships and discrimination manifest themselves in concrete and steel constructions, as well as in objects of daily use such as stairways, which have a prominent place in Bonvicini’s work. In general, there is a focus on questions related to freedom, political responsibility, and issues of law and gender. Both Ruby and Bonvicini make use of theatrical staging and occasionally employ drastic pictorial media. They react to the lifestyles and political injustices of today with critical and forceful counterstatements.

The exhibition at the Kunsthalle Mainz is the artists’ first joint presentation and the first showing of Ruby’s work in Germany.

Monica Bonvicini
Born in Venice in 1965, Monica Bonvicini studied at Berlin’s Hochschule der Künste and at the California Institute of Arts. In 1999, she was awarded the Golden Lion at the Biennale in Venice and in 2005 the Young Art Prize by the Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Today, she teaches sculpture and performative art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She first met Sterling Ruby at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where she was a visiting professor in the late 1990s. It was her suggestion that their works be jointly exhibited, distributed throughout the galleries of the Kunsthalle Mainz.

In Mainz, Bonvicini is exhibiting drawings, watercolors, collages, videos, and sculptures. A monumental scaffold, four meters high, is located in the foyer, depicting a stairway leading nowhere; curtains of steel chains hang from its sides. “We do not define spaces; instead they define us: we are forced to accept that the door is here, or that you have to go down three steps there. But I do not regard it as normal at all to behave according to what the architecture prescribes,” says Bonvicini.

Representations of simple mechanical objects, typically used by men, and heavy equipment dominate. A chainsaw hangs from the ceiling; another is embedded in a cube. A workbench, blue coveralls, the inevitable cover girls, and two watercolors of workers who look like more like photographic models complete a group on the fetishization of male workers. In the rear section of the Kunsthalle Mainz, Bonvicini has installed an extensive stairway: a mixture of glamour and strewn trash. The work was exhibited for the first time at the Venice Biennale in 2011, and refers to a painting by Tintoretto in Bonvicini’s home city of Venice. The painting, which depicts Mary as a child entering the Temple, is preserved in the church of the Madonna dell’Orto. The latent patriarchal violence of the Renaissance work is translated by Bonvicini into the parallel construction of an insubstantial theater.

Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby was born in Bitburg in the Rhineland-Palatinate in 1972, the son of a Dutch mother and an American father. The family moved to the United States shortly after his birth. Upon completing high school, Ruby worked in construction, became a professional skateboarder, and played in several punk bands. He studied art at the Pennsylvania School of Art and Design, the Art Institute in Chicago, and in Pasadena, California, where he became the teaching assistant for Mike Kelley, who died in 2012.

Compulsive disturbances, psychological obsessions, and states of excess characterize Sterling Ruby’s works. The Kunsthalle Mainz is featuring his collages and videos from the past eight years; carefully combined into groups by Ruby, they tell of gangs and graffiti, of punk and sub-culture, a masculine thirst for war, consumption and decline, prison and globalization. Ruby sees his works as a means to vent, lashing out in rebellion against strict forms, rational pressure, and authoritarian conditions. His works include montages with shiny foil, iridescent silvery surfaces, and watercolors against synthetic color backgrounds. Compulsive repetition, idolatry, and other psychological syndromes are recurring themes. Some of his works are marked by fingerprints, soiled with dirt and pasted-in photographs. Gaping maws and vampire mouths are juxtaposed with cave paintings whose bizarre peaks are shaped like frightening jaws. Ruby views himself as a political artist who opposes repressive realities, stating “[…] paranoia regarding terrorism is used to give primacy to the ideologies of America ahead of other countries.”

Curated by Thomas D. Trummer

Kunsthalle Mainz
Am Zollhafen 3-5
55118 Mainz, Germany
Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10am–6pm;
Wednesday 10am–9pm;
Saturday–Sunday 11am–6pm
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