In “Our Friend Fluid Metal,” Nancy Rubins explodes an abandoned children’s playground, sprinkled with thick, aluminum figures of grinning hippos, rideable ponies and wide-eyed giraffes. The metallic beasts, often smiling despite their chipped paint and unveiled innards, appear relatively sturdy and rigid, even when swept into mid-air and left there, hovering in an organic structure bound by strands of heavy wire.
In her first New York exhibition of major sculptures, Rubins presents four gargantuan sculptures made from elements of children’s playgrounds made in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The pop eruption resembles a kitsch Noah’s arc swept into a hurricane and frozen there by some supernatural force. The force, in this case, is Rubins, the Huffington Post reports.
Rubins’ massive sculptures resemble, in a way, this possible manifestation of aluminum’s past life, resembling an organic, extra-terrestrial structure crash-landing on earth. As Gagosian Gallery describes, “Geological in scope and metastatic in formation, these rhizomatic structures brim with dark energy, pointing to the inexorable proliferation of manmade refuse.”
Rubin says of her vision, “When you look at this sculptures, yeah, you’re seeing a conglomerate of all these doodads but you’re also seeing this highly abstracted thing. These wiggly shapes of colour that lock in with another wiggly shape. There’s these strange organic forms that go back to the surrealists, or earlier. For me it was a real challenge to take these objects and to transform them.”
Transform them she does, turning a vintage graveyard into something undeniably living, buzzing with an alien magic that’s impossible to pin down. Her use of scrap materials in such massive quantities begs questions of proliferation and waste, yet Rubins is more concerned with the properties of her materials than their environmental associations. “It’s more the transient properties,” she explained. “We look at these things like a piece of metal or a concrete buildings or things we think are rigid and really they’re very fluid in the right circumstance.”
Rubins’ unwieldy metallic clusters above have wonderfully endowed nonsensical titles like “Chunkus Majoris,” “Paquito” and “Spiral Ragusso.” The sculptural feats, which took almost two years to complete, collapse any rigid distinctions between power and play, grace and force, rigidity and fluidity. We guess that’s what happens when you turn humble scrap materials into a monumental and fantastical organic metal growth.
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