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Sterling Ruby

23 November—23 December 2023
Sogetsu Foundation, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

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SPECTERS TOKYO takes place at the Sogetsu Plaza from November 23rd to December 23rd, 2023 in Akasaka, Tokyo. The show marks Ruby’s first public installation in Japan, in which the artist reimagines Isamu Noguchi’s “Heaven” to explore the interactions between the living and the dead.

Known for his multi-disciplinary sculptural works, Sterling Ruby presents a new site-specific installation, which draws influence from kaidan, a genre of Japanese ghost stories originating in the Edo period and popularized by Greek-Japanese writer Lafcadio Hearn. Through the lens of Hearn’s vivid and visceral tales, the artist dives straight into stories of yōkai, a class of spirits and supernatural entities, from a predominately Japanese perspective, transforming Noguchi’s stage-like indoor garden into a spectral netherworld inhabited by faceless spirits.

Originating from his 2019 Desert X installation SPECTER, which consisted of a fluorescent monolith juxtaposed against the stark Californian desert, Ruby completely transforms the “specter” into a hauntingly figurative object that can be perceived across cultural contexts.

"The neon cube stood against the desert backdrop and did many optic things throughout the day such as appearing as if space was cut out of the natural world around it or floating like an apparition. Continuing this train of thought I decided to make a new body of work that is truly about the specter, the apparition, the ghost, the supernatural...the otherworldly." – Sterling Ruby, 2023

Ruby’s immense specters, made from heavily-worn, tattered textiles and other found objects, are suspended from the ceiling, floating weightlessly, and creating an immersive, almost puppet-like scene. The ghosts hold agrarian tools, metal armatures, and dried gourds, which act as direct and indirect references to Hearn’s yōkai as well as other Euro-American ghost folklore. Ruby’s installation enthralls, terrifies, and reminds us that the dead, whose absences are painful and hard to understand, may still walk among us.