The sheer physicality of Nancy Rubins’s sculpture is initially overpowering. Her work comes out of the American tradition of heavy metal sculpture such as the crushed cars of John Chamberlaine.She started scavenging thrift stores when she left college in the early 70s and making assemblages of discarded electrical appliances and such like. In 1981 her first public installation Big Bil-Bored was 43 feet high and was voted the ugliest sculpture in Chicago. Are you warming to this artist? Maybe not but her energy and confidence from the start are impressive.
Her work was instantly recognisable. Gravity defying bouquets of dynamic forms such as small boats, perched on the roof of buildings and projecting alarmingly out into space. The work at the Gagosian is made of animals: pigs, giraffes, wolves, crocodiles, all cast, mainly in aluminium. They could be garden ornaments or fairground creatures: whatever their origin though we can see that they are readymades. The tortoises at the base recall Renaissance fountains but from there up the way she handles these forms is audaciously modern. They have been pierced and hoisted into dynamic and fluent compositions, which leave you feeling almost winded. It is difficult to imagine that a public site for these alarming sculptures will be found here, at least in the immediate future. Which in my opinion is a shame.
Nancy Rubins is at the Gagosian Gallery, 6-24 Britannia Street from 7 February-14 April