Through her past three solo exhibitions at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, Ruby Sky Stiler has established a visual language in which historical periods, art movements, and spatial dimensions readily coexist. Her signature wall reliefs transform an inventory of studio castoffs into rhythmic puzzles that draw attention equally to their surfaces and to the discrete shapes contained within, accumulating patterns and textures to create dense portraits or geometric configurations. Each component carries its own history, oftentimes visible in notes scrawled in pencil, or of outline marks only to be rethought; what fills the space in-between each cut creates another narrative, another plane.
At the center of Figures, Fragments, and Open Form, however, is the debut of a series of wooden sculptures in which this matter in-between completely dissipates, leaving isolated black lines. The depiction of the female figure here remains an economic, canny composition of geometric abstractions in a Modernist spirit. Yet rather than provide us with the layers of information found in her wall reliefs, the sculptures exclusively frame space. In place of the tactile surfaces that can be carved into and drawn on, the sculptures’ outlines provide multiple perspectives on to their surroundings, and additionally unto themselves. The lines are simultaneously descriptive and obstructive, creating screens that allow transparency only to reveal another set of images. Stiler’s significant choice to make each sculpture trilateral reiterates that a “correct” perspective is impossible, with “frontal” views bisected and side views incomplete. Displayed close together like a clique, these women fill our own and each other’s fields of vision, shifting their respective compositions in each sightline. Further complicating the tableau are the inventive variations on scale: a standing woman at 8 feet tall dwarfs the average viewer, who may be closer in height to a seated figure, which appears around the same size as a bust. On a separate pedestal, two heads at slightly different scales overlap almost as to create an imperfect reflection, a doubling quality that is again echoed in the pair of portraits on the wall.
While these sculptures may sound more reductivist than Stiler’s previous figurative sculptures of foam and resin, they shift the conversation from material and authenticity to form and space, which continues off the pedestal to the female figures in her wall reliefs. In both bodies of work, the precise outlines move seamlessly from the curve of a shoulder to the arc of an eye socket, the circle of an eye to that of a breast; and from the positive space created by the solid wood of the sculptures to the similarly toned negative space carved out from the wall reliefs. Dissecting them piece-by-piece, it could appear as an assembly kit for the female automaton as fetishized by the Surrealists, a mechanical template. Instead Stiler portrays the female figure and our relationship to it as anything but; fully realized yet hard to decipher, enigmatic, and unrepeatable.
Ruby Sky Stiler has had solo exhibitions this past year at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT and Locust Projects, Miami, FL. Additionally she has exhibited at The Suburban, Oak Park, IL, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, OR, Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, New York, The Berman Museum, PA, and The Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, New York, among many other venues. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and her MFA from Yale. She
lives and works in Brooklyn.