with all the colors of the sky
forgotten by gravediggers
Use it to prove how the stars
were always what we knew
they were: the exit wounds
— Ocean Vuong
In their clay reliefs Brie Ruais examines the exit wound and its deep psychological implications. For example, in “Exiting Wound, 130 Pounds of Clay” there is a jagged hole in the center of the relief from which several lines emerge. Ruais fleshes out in Clay Ocean Vuong’s metaphor. His 2016 book Night sky with exit wounds suggests that many of us bear the emotional equivalent of exit wounds from words fired and misfired our way.
The exit wound is created by the body of Brie Ruais featured in the video “Digging in, Digging Out.”“, (2021) to see in the gallery Albertz Benda, as well as online vimeo. Her process consists of squeezing clay out of a center where she sits on the floor. She rips, shreds, spreads to form radiant shapes with lush textures and a mix of colors. Once this distribution is complete, she cuts the work into pieces and then burns them in a kiln. Her encounter with Vuong’s poem illustrated her attraction to leaving a rough hole in the middle to evoke a puncture.
As artist Hyperallergic explained, “What’s primarily seen in the show is a tear… it’s like tearing a fish fillet.” This aesthetic of the tear and uneven wound further explores the wound as a form.
Ruais varies the colors in this work. For example, in Circling the Center and Falling off the Edge, 130 Pounds (2021) there is a mix of turquoise, tan, green, brown and deeper hues. Two-dimensional images fail to capture the sensual physicality of the surface textures or the blending and merging of these colors.
The number 130 appears in most of their titles. This number relates to her own weight and her decision to work with 130 pounds of clay when making these sculptures. The weight of that weight, the way she has to deal with it keeps her entire 130-pound body occupied — both physiologically and psychologically.
Letting the Fire In, 130 Pounds (2021) was fired in a pit fire instead of a kiln. The unusual mix of black and white markings results from the entropic way fire burned out the oxygen embedded in the clay. The unevenness of fire has led most clay artists to prefer the even heat of an electric kiln, while Ruais celebrates the irregularities. Up close, the chaotic mists of black and white and the various burnt textures lure the eye.
As installed at Galerie Albertz Benda, Letting the Fire In, 130 Pounds features a literal exit wound torn through the gallery wall. His shards lie in a heap under the piece. It is possible to peek through the hole to see other parts of the show.
With the exhibition title Some things I know about being in a body, Ruais alludes to the predicament of embodiment. Many philosophers and serious thinkers from Plato to Simone de Beauvoir have studied this. Ruais does that too, but physically, using her body to focus on how bodywork can release the emotional trauma that the tissues and muscles store. Ruais invites each visitor on a journey of physicality, of squeezing and tugging at our own bodies to find a way to sense and integrate the emotional wounds they may contain.
Brie Ruiz: Some things I know about being in a body continues at Albertz Benda (512 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through January 22, 2022.