Sam Ross Goes Back To His Industrial Roots

by Christina Donoghue on 5 April 2023

The A-COLD-WALL* founder's latest work pulls him away from fashion and sees the artist find a home in London's White Cube gallery with his debut art exhibition, LAND.

The A-COLD-WALL* founder's latest work pulls him away from fashion and sees the artist find a home in London's White Cube gallery with his debut art exhibition, LAND.

'I've always viewed my work in fashion as an early and productive expression of sculpture' - Sam Ross

For Sam Ross, the 'F' word (fashion) has always gone hand in hand with that other 'F' word (function). Both terms - in Ross' world, at least - meet somewhere in the middle, proven by the utilitarian approach taken at his luxury label A-COLD-WALL*, where nods to functional design and modernity are continuously met with sharp silhouettes, clean lines and reduced colour palettes. Now, he's leaving all that behind, switching from sculpting with fabrics to making physical sculpture in the name of art. Don't think he's left behind his industrial roots, though; his debut art exhibition, LAND at White Cube, frames his penchant for materials and product front and centre. 'This show echoes closeness to my background in all areas, product, industrial and fashion design', Ross told the press at the opening. 'I've always viewed my work in fashion as an early and productive expression of sculpture, using the skeletal form as a structure to model my own self-made fabric sculptures'.

Sam Ross 'Candles Burn', 2022.

In the Sam Ross world, frills are nowhere in sight; this is (or at least meant to be) about making with meaning; a space where ideas and commentary on class, race and social constructs inform his dutiful approach to creativity, similar to his late mentor Virgil Abloh - another creative whose own multidisciplinary practice spanned art, sculpture, fashion, product design and more. Sculpture in its most obvious form is also included in the exhibition, typified by a series of geometric structures made from powder-coated steel and aluminium. These very structures centre the ten sizeable graffitied canvases in his allotted gallery room, enveloping you in a mass of blue paints, oils, acrylics and industrial materials.

'Body with land' Sam Ross, 2022

However, despite the relatively simple nature of the work pulled together by an incense-filled atmosphere, Ross' explanation to the press was less straightforward. We know him as an intellectual, so art assumably suits his aesthetic best, yet, the mash-up of ideas and implied meaning seems inherently lost here or - to be frank - too on the nose (it's rather hard to tell). On one side of the room, canvases are blotted with darker, smokier colours - all of which contrast the lighter hues splashed on the paintings that hang opposite. Blots of muddy brown acrylic paint that emulate rust add to Ross' industrial intentions in creating a 'studio which acts as a timeless chamber where you can frequently return to work and ideas'. Not as cold as one would expect an industrial studio to be, Ross has filled the room with not only incense but also a soundscape, adding a meditational element to the landscaped works on display.

Despite Ross' deliberate actions in curation that may lead the viewer to a definitive viewpoint, the artist assures that there is nothing to 'get' here. Everything is offered up for interpretation which, to be frank, can only be a good thing. If one were to hypothetically look for a 'deeper meaning' you'd be hard-pressed to find one, scratching the uneven surface of these large-scale works would reveal just an empty canvas underneath. Ross adds further confusion by disclosing, 'My work is about revealing gestures through colour and layer, accentuating the correlation between treating fabric and art', a comment I'm sure has meaning; I'm just unsure where. To detract away from making too scathing a point, it must be said that this is the first of many more exhibitions planned that will see the Bermondsey-based gallery offer up its space to creatives looking to switch from their current medium to a practice more rooted in fine art; a perfect fit for those seeking multidisciplinary styles such as Ross himself.

Sam Ross 'Upon', 2022

And multidisciplinary he is, that you can't deny. Just like his late mentee Abloh, Ross' design language sits at the intersection of function and style, combining all the elements in the process. Following in the ex-Louis Vuitton artistic director's footsteps, the graphic designer-turned-fashion-connoisseur-turned-artist is, without doubt, rethinking the language of design, turning it on its head completely to reveal a melting pot of ideas to whoever is ever willing to look hard enough.

Sam Ross 'LAND', White Cube, 2023



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