The cavernous, post-industrial Boiler Room gallery at The Wapping Project in east London has waited generations for an artist like Kris Ruhs to put it to its best use since its original purpose became redundant. The great German-born American magpie-maker has engaged the immense volume of the space, down to every dark corner, with shed-loads of repurposed metal, rubber and wood, collected from umpteen sources across Italy, where he does the bulk of his work.
The concept of hoarding has suffered of late, poisoned by a couple of bad apples profiled on cable TV. But Ruhs is clearly doing his best to put a positive spin on it. For 'Landing on Earth', he's turned the Boiler Room into a veritable body shop, set behind floor-to-ceiling curtains of glinting aluminium, each piece twisted and scratched with paint as if removed from the scene of a horrible accident.
The patchwork curtain, a full 11m in length, offers glimpses of what's beyond. In one corner there's a labyrinth of shredded tyre inner tubes that visitors navigate as if pushing through a carwash. It offers a 'density' to the spectacle, says Ruhs, but also a 'softness', a counterpoint to all that foreboding metal.
Then, at the centre of the room, spiraling down from the vaulted ceiling, a chandelier has been pieced together with 240 raku ceramic barbs: antlers? Branches? 'Everyone sees something different,' says Ruhs, who offers no further explanation. Beneath it, a giant seat resembling a polished-stone ashtray rotates, so hardy viewers can look up into the eye of the chandelier.
Design devotees familiar with Kris Ruhs's collaborations with Carla Sozzani at the Milan gallery-boutique 10 Corso Como might think of him primarily as an interior designer-cum-jeweller. So it's a treat to see the artist take full command of a space the size of Wapping's.
Still, he hasn't left Milan far behind. After filming the controlled chaos of his workshops at home, Ruhs set up projectors to broadcast the images here in London.