In between the industrial rot of the furthest stretches of East London, The Wapping Project is presenting a cold heat. The old boiler house will be host to three new installations by Milan based American designer and artist Kris Ruhs entitled, Landing on Earth. The project was created to run during London Design Festival and Frieze Art fair. It will remain on display from the 13 September until the 21 October. Ruhs who is part of the infamous 10 Corso Como established in the late 90s, has created a collection of enormous sculptures that engulf the boiler room. Each element was designed with the spacial magnitude and individual viewer in mind.
Ruhs is known for his jewelry but his work is far more than that. He is a sculptor, painter, and a wizard with ceramics and evidenced in this latest piece. Hailing from Queens, in New York, he spent his formative years learning Fine Art practices at The School of Visual Arts. His early works were created from inspiring pieces of wood that were discarded around his studio near Broadway. Found objects of varying sizes and shapes became a regular focal point in his creations. From the beginning his work has been art first and fashion second. It was only when he formed an important friendship with jewelry designer Robert Lee Morris that he began to explore how his creations could be applied as wearable objects. In the 90s he began to transition to Europe building a foundation with Carla Sozzani, and 10 Corso Como. Following this exploratory period, Ruhs was offered work for Italian Vogue, and was commissioned on design assignments that took him to the furthest corners of the world. It was during this period that ceramics became an important part of his life and work. He never strayed far from object and materials that were discarded, deemed useless, and left abandoned.
10 Corso Como, was, from the beginning and nurturing environment that has promoted and produced astonishing designers and artists from around the world. Humble spaces spawned a generation of creative endeavours. In 1990 Carla Sozzani, who is a former fashion editor started up
a space in a converted garage in Milan. She called it Galleria Carla Sozzani, appropriately, not knowing what the future would hold for the humble dwelling. Not long after this garage was joined by a bookshop, cafe, and fashion and design shop. It was Ruhs, who helped make this dream of Sozzani’s a reality, designing the building as well as the logo that has become globally recognized as a design icon. During this process a new paradigm was created to shake the foundations of fashion and design. The ideas was something called slow shopping, encouraging shoppers, art enthusiasts, and the general public to enjoy all aspects that the space and environment have to offer in conjunction with the work and retail that are on display. Ruhs designed the inner sanctum of the buildings to reflect a piazza common to Italy to encourage people to stop and reflect. This wasn’t a gallery space with sterile white walls, this was something all together new and enjoyable.
Ruhs’ latest work in Wapping reflects the shift of an artist who is wary of people wanting to pigeon hole is pieces. For most of the artist’s career the public and critics have known him as a jewelry designer. This new project shows him breaking away from that image and growing in a direction, at least momentarily, that shows his work to be focused on mass sculpture. It is not an entirely new direction for him, but a vocal and conscious decision for him. It is a chance for him to highlight his early desire to return to found objects. The new piece is a manic twist and turn of rusted metal, juxtaposing spikes made from ceramic and lined with LED lighting, another favorite material of the artist. When asked about the use of LED lighting in this new piece, he harkened back to a time when this technology was difficult to manipulate and almost impossible to incorporate. He spoke fondly of the time, almost knowingly suggesting the potential that was waiting only a few years a way. He has a glimmer in his eye knowing what he knows now.
This piece reflects a warmth and also a stark coldness. The descriptions are minimal and only a few days ago, the entirety of the work lay in abstract abandon on the floor of the Wapping Boiler house as if an enormous deer massacre had occurred. Ceramic spikes which are to be suspended from the ceiling on an immense metal fan structure, dot the ground as fallen antlers in an industrial accident
that has claimed the lives of millions. The view from a balcony within the space present the spikes as solid forms. They appear shape and painful until viewed up close. At this angle they reveal their hand crafted sculptural precision, that is elegant and soft. The spikes sit amongst pieces of rubber collected from Milan, and metal that are suggested to form a maze within the the boiler room for visitors to explore. In the middle of the space will be a suspended chair of sorts that will be accessible. In the adjacent room, a screen will project the artist at work. It was will be a space to reflect and appreciate the tedious and meticulous nature of Ruhs, the sculptor, the artist and the designer.
Ruhs has come full circle and presented a piece that will show a new face to the world. He is not only a jewelry designer, he is a creator, and a philosopher. He is part of a team of individuals working at 10 Corso Como that seek to change perspective. Not only do they want to show something new, Ruhs and his colleagues actively seek to shape the way the public view spaces and the experiences that can be had within them. Ruhs has experience that few designers can come close to. He is willing to push the limits and create a new image of himself, one that is refreshing and reflective.
Words by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012 Images by: Portia Pettersen Copyright Artlyst 2012