*1972 in Bitburg, Germany



2003–2005, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA, Master of Fine Arts

2000–2002, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bachelor of Fine Arts

1992–1996, Pennsylvania School of Art & Design, Lancaster, PA

Awards (selection)

2019, Alumni Awards: Distinguished Mid-career Award, ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA,

2017, MAD Ball Annual Visionaries! Awards, Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), New York, NY


Sterling Ruby is known for the multifaceted nature of his practice, investigating the possibilities of a wide range of media. From traditional to the unconventional, Ruby has created an oeuvre that, while remarkably diverse, is firmly rooted within a complex and coherent artistic strategy developed over the past three decades.

Often drawing upon autobiographical, art historical, or sociological sources, Black Stove 3 is part of a series of fully functional stoves made by the artist. Executed in marine-grade stainless steel, this stove is based on the cast iron potbelly stoves commonly found in farmhouses. Raised on a farm in rural Pennsylvania that for a time was heated only by a wood-burning stove, Ruby’s own biography is an important element of this work. Stoves were not only used to heat homes, they also served to eliminate scrap wood on work sites. We might understand them as powerful ritualizing objects of such labor. Highlighting Ruby’s interest in themes of functionality and utilitarianism, he states: “At a certain age I was bound to the chores of chopping wood, stacking wood, and starting and maintaining a fire … . I started to think specifically about the truncation of things within the stove. What does the fire mean? What is the alchemy of it?” At the same time, these objects also relate to the larger art historical tradition, harking back to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 “readymades,” conjuring up questions and challenges to art theory. In contrast to the urinal and bottle rack, which were stripped of their utility when exhibited in a gallery context, Ruby’s stoves function.

On this occasion, the artist created a new functional sculpture called Remnant Memorial, a bench made of aluminum-cast wood pieces from his mother’s barn, which was disassembled after her death and shipped from New Freedom, Pennsylvania, to Los Angeles in 2014. Pennsylvanian barns of this style were constructed by German settlers and their descendants, who developed these buildings to accommodate the spread of diversified grain and livestock farming in the 18th century. Early exposure to the magnitude of such architecture served as a precursor to Ruby’s understanding of large-scale sculpture. Remnant Memorial commemorates the significance of the agricultural structure in his personal history by notating the years the artist spent growing up with it on a plaque installed on the bench. Acting as a monument to the barn—both to the integrity of the architecture and its remaining deconstructed pieces—the work resonates with the exploration of the material transformation of wood in Black Stove 3.

Installed together at a central position in Frankfurt’s Metzlerpark, the public is invited to sit by the warm fire, further rejecting the boundaries between art and design, idea and function.


kindly supported by:

Xavier Hufkens