Nancy Rubins

United States 1952

Installation, Sculpture

Nancy Rubins
Nancy Rubins
United States
November 25, 2014

Nancy Rubins is an American sculptor and installation artist, born in 1952 in Naples, Texas. She grew up in Tullahoma, Tennessee. In 1974 she received her BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. In 1976, from the University of California, Davis, she received an MFA. Rubins could be said is driven by formal and aesthetic concerns. As she says: “The desire to make something beautiful out of whatever you have got appealed to me.” In her work, she both extends and challenges the tradition of modernist sculpture, experimenting with the interplay of gravity, balance, form, and beauty.

Her sculptural works are primarily composed of blooming arrangements of large rigid objects such as television sets, small appliances, camping and construction trailers, hot water heaters, mattresses, airplane parts, rowboats, kayaks, canoes, surfboards, and other objects. In college Rubins worked primarily with clay, creating igloo-like sculptures out of mud, concrete, and straw. Rubins avoided the characteristic permanence of ceramics with the constant disassembling of sculptures, collapsing her work back into the slip bucket or back into raw scraps. Her 1974 piece, Mud Slip, Army-Surplus Canvas and Used Cups from Coffee Machine combined found materials with wet clay and it lasted only as long as the clay stayed wet. Her creation of unlikely assemblages grew as she began to incorporate more detritus and found materials into her work. After college, Rubins started scavenging the local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores in San Francisco, where she was living at the time, collecting nearly 300 television sets for 25 to 50 cents for a piece. Rubins was privately commissioned to create her first public installation in 1981. Big Bil-Bored was a highly controversial artwork, voted Ugliest Sculpture in Chicago in a radio poll. Constructed of various discarded appliances, the installation towered forty-three feet high outside of the Cermack Plaza shopping center in Berwyn, Illinois. Soon after, Rubins was offered a commission for another public installation. In 1982, the Washington Project for the Arts funded Rubins’s Worlds Apart, a forty-five foot tall temporary installation composed of abandoned appliances, concrete and steel rebar. Her work overlooked the Whitehurst Freeway, blocks from the Watergate Building in Washington D.C. and again caused controversy.Rubins is perhaps best known for building sculptures out of salvaged airplane parts, such as an installation in 1995 for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The piece weighed nearly 10,000 pounds. Already by the mid-1980s she had begun regularly using abandoned airplane parts in her work. For durability, she chose aluminum, fiberglass and composites rather than wood. Rubins collaborated with husband Chris Burden on a number of projects, including an installation called A Monument to Megalopolises Past and Future at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in 1987. Boats entered Rubins’ sculptural vocabulary in 2000s.

Rubins’s work has been shown internationally. Her solo museum exhibitions include those hosted by Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego in 1994, The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1995, ARTPACE, San Antonio in 1997, Miami Art Museum in 1999, Fonds regional d’art contemporain de Bourgogne, France in 2005, Sculpture Center, Long Island, New York in 2006, Lincoln Center, New York in 2006, and Navy Pier, Chicago in 2013. In 1993, Rubins was invited to participate in the Venice Biennale. She was included in the Whitney Biennial in the same year. Her work can be found in the public collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Eli Broad Foundation, Los Angeles. Large scale, outdoor sculptures are on permanent display at institutions throughout the world, including the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, and Université Paris Diderot, Paris.

Over the years Rubins received numerous awards. Maryland Institute College of Art Alumni Award in 2000, Flintridge Foundation Visual Artist Award in 1997, Rockefeller Foundation Travel Award in 1993, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Awards in Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Photography, and Craft Media in 1991, Creative Artists Public Service Grant, New York State Council for the Arts in 1981 and National Endowment for the Arts in 1981, 1980 and 1977.

Rubins taught at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1982 to 2004 and currently resides in Topanga, California.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2014Nancy Rubins: Our Friend Fluid MetalGagosian Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2014Nancy Rubins: Drawing, Sculpture, StudiesWeatherspoon Art Museum, Grensboro, NCSolo
2010Skins, Structures, LandmassesGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CASolo
2006MOMA and Airplane PartsSculpture Center, Long Island, NYSolo
2006Big Pleasure PointLincoln Center, New York, NYSolo
2005Nancy RubensPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2001Chas’ Stainless SteelGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CASolo
2001Nancy RubensPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1999Nancy RubensPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1997Nancy RubensPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1997Nancy RubensARTPACE, San Antonio, TXSolo
1995Nancy RubensGalerie Philomene Magers, Cologne, GermanySolo
1995Nancy RubensRhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, ILSolo
1995Projects 49: Nancy RubinsMuseum of Modern Art, New York, NYSolo
1994Nancy RubensPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1994Nancy RubensContemporary Art, San Diego, CASolo
1993Mattresses and CakesPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1992Nancy RubensGalerie Patrick de Brock, Antwerp, BelgiumSolo
1992Nancy RubensMiller Nordenhake, Cologne, GermanySolo
1992Nancy RubensBurnett Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
1991Nancy RubensThe Drawing Center, New York, NYSolo
1987Monument to Megapolises Past and FutureLos Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (L.A.C.E.), Los Angeles, CASolo
1986Sprockets MoonNew Langton Arts, San Francisco, CASolo
1982Worlds ApartWashington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C.Solo
1982O.K.Harris Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1980O.K.Harris Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1980Big BilBoredermack Plaza Shopping Center, Berwyn, ILSolo
1979Nancy RubensFlorida State University, Tallahassee, FLSolo
1978Nancy Rubens80 Langton Street, San Francisco, CASolo
2014No. 2: A Graphite ExhibitionDC Moore Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2014Group ShowGagosian Gallery, Rue de Ponthieu, Paris, FranceGroup
2012BIGart at Navy PierGateway Park, Navy Pier, Chicago, ILGroup
2012Prism. Drawings from 1990 to 2012Contemporary Art Museum of Olso, NorwayGroup
2011Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2011Salvatore Scarpitta: TrajectoryMarianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2006Los Angeles 1955-1985Centre Pompidou, Paris, FranceGroup
2006Paper TrailsHoward House, Seattle, WAGroup
2006Sixteen TonsEli and Edythe Broad Art Center, University of California, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2005On Paper: Drawings from the 1960’s to the PresentDaniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2005Cross SectionPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2005Works on PaperGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CAGroup
2004SculpturePaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2004PaperPatricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, CAGroup
2003M_ARS Art and WarNeue Galerie, Graz, AustriaGroup
2003Belvedere dell’ArteOrizzontiForte Belvedere, FlorenceGroup
2003The American LandscapePaul Kasmin Gallery, New YorkGroup
2003The Great Drawing Show 1550-2003 ADMichael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2003SculptureMichael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2003American Academy Invitational Exhibition of Painting and SculptureAmerican Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NYGroup
2002Unknown Quantity (Ce Qui Arrive)Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, FranceGroup
2002Parallels and Intersections: Art-Women-California 1950-2000San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CAGroup
2002Mesure de MesureGaleries Poirel, L’Ecole Nationale Superiere d’Art de Nancy, Nancy, FranceGroup
2002Markings: Constructing Form Through DrawingMAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2001Summer 2001Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2000Metal: Austin Ackles, Ross Bleckner, Nancy RubinsSteffany Martz, New York, NYGroup
1999The Great Drawing Show 1550 to 1999Kohn Turner Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1999Puckette, Nancy Rubins, and Michael ZwackPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1999Powder: The Myth of MortalityAspen Art Museum, Aspen, COGroup
1998Group Show: Suzanne McClelland, Elliott Puckette & Nancy RubinsPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1997Art on PaperWeatherspoon Art Gallery, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NCGroup
1997Trash: When Waste Materials Become ArtMuseo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea d’Trento e Rovereto, Trento, ItalyGroup
1997Summer 97Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1997Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary DrawingsMuseum of Modern Art, New York, NYGroup
1997Sunshine & Noir. Art in L.A. 1960-1997Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los AngelesGroup
1996Sculpture: Donald Baechler, Konstantin Kakanias, Nancy RubinsPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1996Serge Spitzer, Fred Sandback, Nancy RubinsBurnett Miller Gallery, Santa Monica, CAGroup
1995Whitney BiennialThe Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NYGroup
1995The Mind has a Thousand EyesBurnett Miller Gallery, Santa Monica, CAGroup
1995Summer 1995Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1994Summer ‘94Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1994Untitled...Postmasters Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1994Country SculptureLe Consortium, Dijon, FranceGroup
1994International ‘94Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NYGroup
1993Thoughts That Fit Like Air: Herbert HamakNoritoshi Hirakawa, Thom Merrick, NancyGroup
1993RubinsArt & Public, Geneva, Switzerland.Group
1993Enclosion: Sonia Labouriau, Kirsten Mosher, Dan Peterman, Nancy RubinsNew York Kunsthalle, New York, NYGroup
1993Artificial Paradises: Balka, Burden Gormley, Hayward, Potter, RubinsBurnett Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1993Aperto45th Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
1993Differentes Natures: Visions de l’Art ContemporainEtablissement Public pour l’Amenagement de la region de la Defense, Lindau, FranceGroup
1993Ordnung und ZerstorungKulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt, Munich, GermanyGroup
1993The Elegant, Irreverent and Obsessive: Drawing in Southern CaliforniaArts Gallery, California State University, Fullerton, CAGroup
1993Simply Made in AmericaThe Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CTGroup
1992LaxGalerie Krinzinger, Vienna, AustriaGroup
1992Matthew Barney, Sam Reveles, Nancy RubinsStein-Gladstone Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1992Pedro Cabrita Reis, Nancy Rubins, Franz WestBurnett Miller Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1992Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990sMuseum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1991Marking Time: Nancy Rubins, AngelaBulloch, John Reilly, Jacob El HananiThe Drawing Center, Center for the Study and Exhibition of Drawings, New York, NYGroup
1991Lost & FoundSculpture Center, New York, NYGroup
1991Object-ContextThe University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, PAGroup
1990Art in the Anchorage 1990: In the Vaults of the Brooklyn BridgeCreative Time, New York, NYGroup
1988Sculpture at the PointThree Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, PAGroup
19881987 Spatial ConsiderationsMaryland Institute College of the Art, Baltimore, MDGroup
1988Artist’s StatementsU.N. Plaza, Vienna, AustriaGroup
1986UntitledGroup Show at the Alexandra Hotel, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1986Southern California AssemblagesSanta Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, SantaBarbara, CAGroup
1985A Decade of Visual Arts at Princeton: Faculty 1975-1985The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, NJGroup
1983Urban Site: Art in the CityNew Langton Arts, San Francisco, CAGroup
1982Sculptors at UC Davis, Past and PresentUniversity of California, Davis, CAGroup
1981UntitledAmerican Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NYGroup
1980Art on the BeachBattery Park Landfill, Creative Time, New York, NYGroup
1977Works in the WorldUniversity of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, ILGroup
1977InstallationUniversity of California, Davis, CAGroup