Night Gallery is pleased to present Spiraling Open and Closed Like an Aperture, an exhibition of new ceramic sculptures and photographs which document ephemeral, site-specific works by Brie Ruais. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition at Night Gallery.
To mark the occasion Ruais has written about the works to be exhibited:
My work pulls the viewer in relation to the Earth. It is a conduit for emotional and physical connection, a channel for listening, healing, rejoicing, grieving, nurturing, and transforming. My work began ten years ago in an endurance- and process-based approach where I worked with the equivalent of my body weight in clay and my body functioned as the only tool. The pieces are abstract, results of a language of movement I’ve developed through intuition and metaphor. Over the years the work has evolved in meaning through various relationships: my physical relationship to the material, my relationship to my environment, the clay’s relationship to the earth, and the work’s relationship to mapping.
This current body of work began its development four years ago with a solitary road trip through America’s deserts. Crisscrossing Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, I was looking for a home for my work beyond the confines of the white cube, a place where the work could be in dialogue with the Earth. I found that home in the Great Basin Desert of Nevada and have spent time each year working there ever since. In forming a relationship to the Great Basin, I have experienced how the commitment and investment in a specific place has allowed my work to evolve in ways I couldn't have anticipated. I am now making ephemeral raw clay pieces in extraordinarily remote desert locations and using a drone-mounted camera to document the work. These desert experiences feed into the ceramic sculptures made in my Brooklyn studio, where new movements are informed by the body’s memory.
The ceramic sculptures in this exhibition are a continuation of my endurance-based project. Here, my own weight in clay is shaped in relation to the landscape, in some cases incorporating found materials from these sites. Expanding, Circling, Protecting, 127lbs includes a ring of found stones around the central ceramic component, creating two overlapping entities. These stones traveled from a New Mexican mountaintop called the Pedernal, an abandoned mica mine near the town of Ojo Caliente, and a lava field near The Trinity Site where the first nuclear bomb was tested. Torn into twelve sections, this work is a clock that cannot keep time, whose mechanisms are shifting and unclear. It is the memory of a crater in the ground and the countdown to an explosion in the sky: human utterances recorded by deep time and deep futures.
Elsewhere in the exhibition two long horizontal gestures flank the folds of Opposing Tides, Shaping Forces, mimicking the expanse of the desert horizon line within the gallery space. This piece was shaped by the action of compression. Two people spread out their body weight in clay (me, 130 lbs.; another, 170 lbs.) on the floor at opposite ends of the room. Facing each other, we pushed our material towards each other, each form nesting into the other as it gathered and compressed. I cultivated this gesture of compression in response to the urban space surrounding me, on an island pressed between land and sea, where the human relationship to space and nature is determined by the real estate market. This experience of compression could only be countered by the memory of the expansive Great Basin desert where one’s sightline rests easily on the distant and uninterrupted horizon. The human figure here is so singular and so small, it disperses easily into the landscape of sagebrush shrubs, rendered nearly invisible in relation to its vastness. These two forms (perhaps human, perhaps geological) are transformed by forces that act upon them.