Archive for the 'Thomas Ruff' Category

02
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 23rd September 2012

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“To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”

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“Art Byting the Dust” Tony Fry 1990

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They said that photography would be the death of painting. It never happened. Recently they thought that digital photography would be the death of analogue photography. It hasn’t happened for there are people who care enough about analogue photography to keep it going, no matter what. As the quotation astutely observes, the digital age has changed the conditions of production updating the techniques of montage and collage for the 21st century. Now through assemblage the composition may be prefigured but that does not mean that there are not echoes, traces and deposits of other technologies, other processes that are not evidenced in contemporary photography.

As photography influenced painting when it first appeared and vice versa (photography went through a period known as Pictorialism where where it imitated Impressionist painting), this exhibition highlights the influence of painting on later photography. Whatever process it takes photography has always been about painting with light – through a pinhole, through a microscope, through a camera lens; using light directly onto photographic paper, using the light of the scanner or the computer screen. As Paul Virilio observes, no longer is there a horizon line but the horizon square of the computer screen, still a picture plane that evidences the history of art and life. Vestiges of time and technology are somehow always present not matter what medium an artist chooses. They always have a complex afterlife and afterimage.

PS. I really don’t think it is a decomposition, more like a re/composition or reanimation.
PPS. Notice how Otto Steinert’s Luminogramm (1952, below), is eerily similar to some of Pierre Soulages paintings.

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Many thankx to the Städel Musuem for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Installation views of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

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Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28,5 x 39 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
ca.1923-25
Unique photogram, toned printing-out paper
12,6 x 17,6 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
10-80-C-17 (NYC)
1980
From the series: In + Out of City Limits: New York / Boston
Gelatin silver print on fibre-based paper
58 x 73 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Substrat 10
2002
C-type print
186 x 238 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5 cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

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Wolfgang Tillmans (*1968)
paper drop (window)
2006
C-type print in artists frame, 145 x 200 cm
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert

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Otto Steinert (1915–1978)
Luminogramm
1952
Gelatin silver print, printed ca. 1952
41,5 x 60 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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“From 27 June to 23 September 2012, the Städel Museum will show the exhibition “Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation.” The comprehensive presentation will highlight the influence of painting on the imagery produced by contemporary photographic art. Based on the museum’s own collection and including important loans from the DZ Bank Kunstsammlung as well as international private collections and galleries, the exhibition at the Städel will center on about 60 examples, among them major works by László Moholy-Nagy, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall, and Amelie von Wulffen. Whereas the influence of the medium of photography on the “classic genres of art” has already been the subject of analysis in numerous exhibitions and publications, less attention has been paid to the impact of painting on contemporary photography to date. The show at the Städel explores the reflection of painting in the photographic image by pursuing various artistic strategies of appropriation which have one thing in common: they reject the general expectation held about photography that it will document reality in an authentic way.

The key significance of photography within contemporary art and its incorporation into the collection of the Städel Museum offer an occasion to fathom the relationship between painting and photography in an exhibition. While painting dealt with the use of photography in the mass media in the 1960s, today’s photographic art shows itself seriously concerned with the conditions of painting. Again and again, photography reflects, thematizes, or represents the traditional pictorial medium, maintaining an ambivalent relationship between appropriation and detachment.

Numerous works presented in the Städel’s exhibition return to the painterly abstractions of the prewar and postwar avant-gardes, translate them into the medium of photography, and thus avoid a reproduction of reality. Early examples for the adaption of techniques of painting in photography are László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) photograms dating from the 1920s. For his photographs shot without a camera, the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus teacher arranged objects on a sensitized paper; these objects left concrete marks as supposedly abstract forms under the influence of direct sunlight. In Otto Steinert’s (1915-1978) nonrepresentational light drawings or “luminigrams,” the photographer’s movement inscribed itself directly into the sensitized film. The pictures correlate with the gestural painting of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism. A product of random operations during the exposure and development of the photographic paper, Wolfgang Tillmans’ (*1968) work “Freischwimmer 54″ (2004) is equally far from representing the external world. It is the pictures’ fictitious depth, transparency, and dynamics that lend Thomas Ruff’s photographic series “Substrat” its extraordinary painterly quality recalling color field paintings or Informel works. For his series “Seascapes” the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948) seems to have “emptied” the motif through a long exposure time: the sublime pictures of the surface of the sea and the sky – which either blur or are set off against each other – seem to transcend time and space.

In addition to the photographs mentioned, the exhibition “Painting in Photography” includes works by artists who directly draw on the history of painting in their choice of motifs. The mise-en-scène piece “Picture for Women” (1979) by the Canadian photo artist Jeff Wall (born in 1946), which relates to Édouard Manet’s famous painting “Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère” from 1882, may be cited as an example for this approach. The camera positioned in the center of the picture reveals the mirrored scene and turns into the eye of the beholder. The fictitious landscape pictures by Beate Gütschow (born in 1970), which consist of digitally assembled fragments, recall ideal Arcadian sceneries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The photographs taken by Italian Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) in the studio of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) “copy” Morandi’s still lifes by representing the real objects in the painter’s studio instead of his paintings.

Another appropriative strategy sees the artist actually becoming active as a painter, transforming either the object he has photographed or its photographic representation. Oliver Boberg’s, Richard Hamilton’s, Georges Rousse’s and Amelie von Wulffen’s works rank in this category. For her series “Stadtcollagen” (1998-1999) Amelie von Wulffen (born in 1966) assembled drawing, photography, and painting to arrive at the montage of a new reality. The artist’s recollections merge with imaginary spaces offering the viewer’s fantasy an opportunity for his or her own associations.

The exhibition also encompasses positions of photography for which painting is the object represented in the picture. The most prominent examples in this section come from Sherrie Levine (born in 1947) and Louise Lawler (born in 1947), both representatives of US Appropriation Art. From the late 1970s on, Levine and Lawler have photographically appropriated originals from art history. Levine uses reproductions of paintings from a catalogue published in the 1920s: she photographs them and makes lithographs of her pictures. Lawler photographs works of art in private rooms, museums, and galleries and thus rather elucidates the works’ artworld context than the works as such.”

Press release from the Städel Museum website

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Sherrie Levine (*1947)
After Edgar Degas (detail)
1987
5 lithographs on hand-made paper
69 x 56 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Frankfurt
© Sherrie Levine / Courtesy Jablonka Galerie, Köln

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Louise Lawler (*1947)
It Could Be Elvis
1994
Cibachrome, varnished with shellac
74.5 x 91 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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Oliver Boberg (*1965)
Unterführung [Underpass]
1997
C-type print, 75 x 84 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© Oliver Boberg / Courtesy L.A. Galerie – Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

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Richard Hamilton (1922–2011)
Eight-Self-Portraits (detail)
1994
Thermal dye sublimation prints
40 x 35 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Wolfgang Tillmans (*1968)
Freischwimmer 54
2004
C-type in artists frame
237 x 181 x 6 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

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1. Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp.169-170.

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Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10 am – 9 pm

Städel Museum website

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26
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Series of Portraits. A century of photographs’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 1st April – 17th July 2011

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Many thankx to Michaela Hille for her help and to Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

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Nan Goldin
All by Myself (detail)
1993 – 1996
Projektinstallation mit 89 Farbdiapositiven und programmiertem Soundtrack, Laufzeit: 5 Min. 33 Sek.
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

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Nan Goldin
All by Myself (detail)
1993 – 1996
Projektinstallation mit 89 Farbdiapositiven und programmiertem Soundtrack, Laufzeit: 5 Min. 33 Sek.
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

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August Sander
Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914
1914
Silbergelatine, vor 1962, 28,5 x 21,9 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

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August Sander
Notar, Köln, 1924
1924
Silbergelatine, vor 1962, 29,1 x 20,5 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

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Michael Schmidt
aus der 81-teiligen Serie Frauen, 1997 – 1999
Silbergelatine, je 44,1 x 29,9 cm
© Michael Schmidt
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

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Rineke Dijkstra
Montemor, Portugal, May 1, 1994
1994
C-Print, 35,2 x 27,8 cm
© Rineke Dijkstra
Foto/Photo: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Haus der Photographie/Sammlung F. C. Gundlach, Hamburg

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The exhibition comprises 400 exhibits and reflects on important artistic positions in photographic portraiture. During the eventful 20th century portrait photography continually redefines itself, between dissolution of the traditional concept of the subject in the masses and the pursuit of individuality and identity – culturally, socially and in terms of gender. Portraiture is one of the traditional genres in art and was one of the driving forces behind the invention of photography in the 19th century. The image of the human being is subject to constant change, which is also reflected in photography. In postmodern society mass media create ever-changing ideals according to various requirements in tune with a quick succession of trends. Art photography responds to the changes and reflects the development sometimes with spectacular results while it questions the medium of photography itself. The exhibition presents 35 carefully chosen international artists, who through history have opened up a dialogue among themselves; they are referencing each other’s work, and are received and interpreted in evernew contexts. On show are works by Diane Arbus, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Roni Horn, Jurgen Klauke, Annie Leibovitz, Helmar Lerski, Irving Penn, Judith Joy Ross, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and others. An exhibition in cooperation with the Sammlung Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung on the occasion of the 5th Photography Triennial in Hamburg.

“The PORTRAIT-PHOTOGRAPH is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, London, 1984, p. 13). The photographic portrait does indeed combine contrary interests. The relationship between photographer and sitter is crucial. The third factor is the viewer, who is already being considered during the process of photographing. In the knowledge of the particular psychological situation resulting from the presence of a camera, Richard Avedon laconically stated: “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed.” The sitters’ reactions to the camera differ, depending on how experienced they are. Fact is: It is not possible to not communicate, as Paul Watzlawick’s research on communication shows. People demean themselves, even if they withdraw or turn away.

The confrontation climaxes in the principle of frontality, which remains valid today although it is constantly being tried and questioned. The project “Serial Portraits” invites the visitor on a journey through time starting from the beginnings with Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes, David Octavius Hill’s (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson’s (1821-1848) talbotypes up to the digital present with Michael Najjar’s (*1966) cyborgs, and wondering whether classical portraiture has come to its end.

The beginning includes a model case, where due to the long exposure necessary the models do not live out of the moment but into the moment, as Walter Benjamin said (Little History of Photography, 1931). “Thirty Minutes Dialogue von Kyungwoo Chun” (1969) from 2000 is examining the synthesis of expression, which is necessitated by the models’ keeping still for so long. An exposure time of half an hour allows the work to penetrate the depths of the pictorial space.

The creativity of the 1920s and the New Vision inspires a “visual vocabulary” appropriate for modernity. Its different forms can be seen in the individual responses of photographers such as August Sander (1876-1964). Being a typical studio photographer, he works on a typology of “man of the 20th century”, beginning with the agricultural type, his “Stammappe” (engl.: “Germinal Portfolio”) being a memorial to the latter. Helmar Lerski (1871-1956) takes a different stance; having originally worked in film, he is photographing his “Everyday Heads” in extreme close-ups. Making use of effective lighting in his studio, he invites unknown sitters from the street and fashions characteristic heads.

Sander’s oeuvre represents a turning point for comparative vision as a genuine principle in series. Considering photography of the 1920s and questioning the photographer’s position as well as the medium itself, author-photography in the 1970s is developing a new idea of documentary. Thomas Ruff (*1958) is testing the limits, when he presupposes that photography can merely reflect the surface of things. Bernhard Fuchs is adding a personal touch when he is seeking out the places of his own past. The great portrait photographer Irving Penn is cornering his celebrities in a corner of his studio and allows them to find their place, according to their inclinations and abilities to self-represent.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) is holding a one-sided dialog, certainly not giving equal weight to the photographer’s interests and that of her models. While the frontality signals the conventionally due deference, the complex composition of her pictures is dominated by the superior gaze directed at the supposedly others, the freaks of bourgeois society. Until now Arbus is misinterpreted as a documentary photographer. It is being ignored that photography inevitably presents a specific view of reality and that the viewer’s position has been carefully constructed within the picture.

Only pictures that have been taken without the awareness of those represented document a found situation at the same time as they present a monologue. Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) chose this method for his series “Menschen im Fahrstuhl” (engl.: “People in an Elevator”), which he completed in just one day. In a moment of pause people can reflect and are not forced to react to being observed. In his pictures the photographer respects their individuality without judging social differences.

Examples for comparability as principle in a series can be found early on. Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes as unique copies of the members of parliament in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt from 1848/1849 were later reproduced as lithographs and distributed in portfolios. These politicians were the direct successors to the galleries of ancestral portraits in stately homes, whereby the new medium was democratic. Rudolph Duhrkoop’s “Hamburgische Männer und Frauen amAnfang des XX. Jahrhunderts” (engl.: “Men and Women of Hamburg in the Early XXth Century”) represent the citizens in this tradition.

Since 1975 Nicholas Nixon (*1974) is extending the series “The Brown Sisters” every year. His study is observing changes, while Hans-Peter Feldmann (*1941) is representing a century through 101 average people in his sequence “100 Jahre” (engl.: “100 Years”). It is fascinating, how the uniqueness of each person even if they remain anonymous is transported in the photographic portrait. Judith Joy Ross’ (*1946) series “Protesting the U. S. War in Iraq” documents a seriousness in the sitters’ faces, the political dimension of which can only be fully grasped with the information on the context. As with every photograph the title or accompanying text is part of the message.”

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg website

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Andy Warhol
Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

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Andy Warhol
Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)
1981/82
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

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Andy Warhol
Self-Portrait in Drag
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

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Roni Horn
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

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Roni Horn
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

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Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Portrait (C. Bernhard)
1985
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
© Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

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Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Portrait (T. Ruff)
1983
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

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Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 11 am – 9 pm

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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25
May
09

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Ruff. Surfaces, Depths’ at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 21st May – 13th September, 2009

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Thomas Ruff. 'Interieur 2D (Tegernsee)' 1982

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Thomas Ruff
‘Interieur 2D (Tegernsee)’
1982
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist © VBK, Wien 2009

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Thomas Ruff. 'Zycles 3048' 2008

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Thomas Ruff
‘Zycles 3048′
2008

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An exhibition of the work of the renowned photographer Thomas Ruff that concentrates on his new ‘Cassini’ and ‘Zycles’ series. His clinical photographs with their catatonic rigidity promote stupor in the viewer. The viewer becomes complicit in a platonic relationship (of forms) with the non-reality presented by the camera, directed by Ruff’s ironic, surgical gaze. Ruff corrupts and disturbs traditional binaries of presence/absence, truth/reality, surfaces/depths to challenge the very basis of seeing, the very basis of photography’s link to indexicality and presence in a contemporary digital world, something that William Eggleston seems to have lost the art of doing (please see the previous post).

As Maurice Blanchot has observed,

“The image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day. Not only is the image of an object not the meaning of that object and of no help in comprehending it, but it tends to withdraw it from its meaning by maintaining it in the immobility of a resemblance that it has nothing to resemble.”1

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There is no single truth; there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described.2 In the splitting apart of image and meaning there is a crisis in control: it becomes illusory and is marked by doubt.

In Ruff’s photographs the relationship between image and context, between cause and effect becomes more and more layered until the very act of seeing is no longer framed or presupposed through relations of distance or perspective.3 Ruff’s photographs become a struggle of and for positionality in the physical, mental and emotional conflicts evidenced in the viewer as we look, paradoxically, at these unemotional images.

Marcus Bunyan

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Thomas Ruff. 'Cassini 01' 2008

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Thomas Ruff
‘Cassini 01′
2008

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Thomas Ruff. 'Cassini 06' 2008

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Thomas Ruff
‘Cassini 06′
2008

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“Yet Ruff has always treated the medium of photography with skepticism: for him, the photographic surface is a thin foil which tricks the viewer with its illusion of extreme realism and at the same time reveals the fundamental impossibility of experiencing the world in our digital age. Ruff’s images seem emphatically to deny photography’s main attribute – that is, the offer of a reliable record of reality. Instead, through his mute images devoid of all emotion, Ruff presents us with a contemporary subjectivity defined by amnesia.”

Text from the Castello di Rivoli website

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Thomas Ruff. 'Portrait (A. Siekmann)' 1987

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Thomas Ruff
‘Portrait (A. Siekmann)’
1987

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Thomas Ruff. 'Portrait (A. Kachold)' 1987

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Thomas Ruff
‘Portrait (A. Kachold)’
1987

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Thomas Ruff. 'Portrait (S. Weirauch)' 1988

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Thomas Ruff
‘Portrait (S. Weirauch)’
1988
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist © VBK, Wien 2009

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“The reality in front of the camera is reality of the first degree, the representation of the reality in front of the camera is reality of the second degree, and then come any number of possible gradations and distortions.”

Thomas Ruff

“To try to see more and better is not a matter of whim or curiosity or self-indulgence. To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe, by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.”

Teilhard de Chardin, “Seeing” 1947

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The work of Thomas Ruff, who numbers among today’s most important photographers, focuses our attention on such diverse everyday subjects as people, architecture, the universe, and the Internet. With its extensive solo presentation with a total of about 150 exhibits from 11 groups of works, Kunsthalle Wien offers a first comprehensive survey of the artist’s manifold oeuvre in Austria.

Thomas Ruff studied at the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts, graduating as a student of Bernd and Hilla Becher besides Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, and Thomas Struth, all of them celebrating an international career these days. The photographer strikes us as a sharp and concentrated observer of his motifs. To him, objectivity is nothing neutral though, but has to be redefined with each new photograph. The series of large-scale portraits which Ruff started working on in 1986 and for which he became known internationally, for example, fascinates us because of the determined detachment with which he captured his models that were mostly acquainted with him. This approach makes for a hyper-precise, chirurgic gaze reproducing everything down to the last detail as equivalent. It also demonstrates the degree of the artist’s interest in the history of photography, how critically he considers its subject, and the skeptical attitude he sometimes adopts toward the medium.

From his stereoscopic views of the urban development myth of Brasilia and his apparently anti-essayistic architectural photographs of buildings by Herzog & de Meuron, which are based on instructions, to his digital processing of images of the planet Saturn available free of charge on the NASA website, the artist explores the concepts of the exemplary, of objectivity, of reality, and of zeitgeist. Based on half of his about twenty thematic groups of works created so far, the exhibition examines the concept pair surface/depth, which seems to be quite simple at first sight, but reveals itself as strongly discursive on closer inspection, and focuses the attention on formal aspects one comes upon again and again in his entire oeuvre …

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Thomas Ruff. 'Herzog & de Meuron, Ricola Mulhouse' 1994

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Thomas Ruff
‘Herzog & de Meuron, Ricola Mulhouse’
1994
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist © Thomas Ruff

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Thomas Ruff. 'House Nr. 11 III' 1990

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Thomas Ruff
‘House Nr. 11 III’
1990
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist © VBK, Wien 2009

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Right in time for the International Year of Astronomy 2009, Thomas Ruff presents works from his most recent series Cassini - subtly manipulated pictures of Saturn and its moons taken by the Cassini spacecraft. It was the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who opened a window to the skies with his telescope 400 years ago. He thus revolutionized man’s image of himself in regard to the universe, but also his understanding of and his way of dealing with the concepts of nearness and distance, surface and depth.

Thomas Ruff. Surfaces, Depths conveys what these concepts, translated into pictures, do to the viewer on a phenomenological level and how they challenge him. The curves of Ruff’s zycles, distorted into the three-dimensional sphere, unfold the sensory experience of roaming virtual depths only reserved to the human eye. Yet, gazing at the represented motifs also elucidates the artist’s contentual objective of providing a critical comment on the various possibilities of the photographic apparatus to depict and manipulate reality.”

Press release from the Kunsthalle Wien website

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Thomas Ruff. 'Cassini 08' 2008

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Thomas Ruff
‘Cassini 08′
2008

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04-cassini-03

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Thomas Ruff
‘Cassini 03′
2008
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist and Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich © Thomas Ruff

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Thomas Ruff. 'Zycles 3045' 2008

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Thomas Ruff
‘Zycles 3045′
2008
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist © VBK Wien, 2009

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“Thomas Ruff first became known through his portraits of houses and factory buildings, as well as the night sky, portrayed in a natural and objective manner. Ruff photographed the buildings either in strict frontality or at right angles to one another, always paying attention to regular sharpness and neutral lighting, and from the same standpoint. With his controversially discussed nudes of erotic, sometimes pornographic scenes from the Internet, which he projected onto unsharp large formats, he expanded the borders of photography in 1999. Since then, his Internet blow-ups with clearly emphasised pixel structures have been regarded as his ‘trademark’. Thomas Ruff started concerning himself with the medium of the image at the very beginning of his artistic career. In addition to self-produced analogue and digital photographs, he worked from the basis existing pictures. He liked working with unspectacular, historically typical motifs and elaborated the images on the computer, whereby he was particularly interested in the technical side of photography. Often, a new group of works would start with the choice of a specific technique, for example, the night sky pictures from 1992 to 1995 which were made with the help of a camera and a night vision enhancer. Since the night vision enhancer is a visual instrument developed for the Gulf War, this series is a subliminal play on the medial dimension created by this war.

After digitally creating the Substrat series of 2002 abstract, psychedelic colour images from Manga comics, he began his latest zycles series, in which he worked with far more complexly abstract dimensions. These consisted of large-format inkjet prints on canvas that already created a furore at this year’s Art Unlimited in Basel. It is hard to believe that these compositions, which consisted of curved lines and were spread all over the image, originated in mathematics, or more precisely, in antiquated 19th century books on electro-magnetism that portrayed magnetic fields on copperplates. Thomas Ruff was particularly interested in translating these drawings into three-dimensional space. For this he used a 3D computer programme that translated mathematic formulas into complex, three-dimensional linear structures. Ruff recorded different detailed views from these virtually produced linear structures. The weave of lines developed in front of an open space of unspecified depth, sometimes filigree, sometimes accentuated. Their dynamics are reminiscent of the lines of magnetic fields, but also of informal line drawings. Either way, they invite the viewers to play with their own perceptions.”

Text by Dominique von Burg; translation: Maureen Oberli-Turner from the Mai 36 Galerie website

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Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg icbm05' 2007

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Thomas Ruff
‘Jpeg icbm05′
2007

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Thomas Ruff. 'Jpeg rl104' 2007

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Thomas Ruff
‘Jpeg rl104′
2007

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Kunsthalle Wien

Museumsplatz 1
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Daily 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

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1. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p.85.

2. Townsend, Chris. Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking. Munich: Prestel, 1998, p.10.

3. Burnett, Ron. Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, & the Imaginary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995, pp.137-138.

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31
Mar
09

Publication of ‘Jpegs: Photographs by Thomas Ruff’ from Aperture Foundation

 

“How much visual information is needed for image recognition? A pretty small quantity of data will go a long way for the brain and the computer, both of which take shortcuts for the sake of speedy comprehension. In the Jpegs series, German photographer Thomas Ruff exploits this imprecision in digital technology, locating online jpegs and enlarging them until the pixels emerge in a chessboard pattern of near abstraction. A closer look at these images reveals that, in addition to the degeneration of the image into a digital grid, the color and brightness generated by the algorithms of the compression also become visible. Many of Ruff’s works in this series focus on idyllic, seemingly untouched landscapes, or conversely, on scenes of war and nature disturbed by human manipulation – subjects ill suited to disruptive pixelation, and therefore perfect for Ruff’s purposes. Taken together, these images constitute an encyclopedic compendium of contemporary visual culture that also engages the history of landscape painting. A fittingly deluxe and oversize volume, Jpegs is the first monograph dedicated exclusively to this monumental series.” 

Text from the Amazon website

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg sh01' 2005

 

Thomas Ruff
‘jpeg sh01′
2005

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg ca02' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
‘jpeg ca02′
2004

 

“Thomas Ruff is among the most important international photographers to emerge in the last fifteen years, and one of the most enigmatic and prolific of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s former students, a group that includes Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, and Axel Hutte. In 2007, Ruff completed his monumental and very timely Jpegs series in which he explores the distribution and reception of images in the digital age. Starting with images he culls primarily from the Web, Ruff enlarges them to a gigantic scale, which exaggerates the pixel patterns, until they become sublime geometric displays of color. A fittingly deluxe and oversized volume, Jpegs (Aperture, June 2009) is the first monograph dedicated exclusively to the publication of Ruff’s remarkable series.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg msh01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
‘jpeg msh01′
2004

 

jpeg-soi01-2005

 

Thomas Ruff
‘jpeg soi01′
2005

 

When viewed up close the images in Jpegs look abstract; as you move away they merge into decipherable photographic images. Like Impressionistic paintings, Ruff’s photographs require the viewer’s active participation and shift in perspective in order to make a complete assessment of the image content. The work ranges from idyllic, seemingly untouched landscapes and popular tourist spots, to scenes of war and nature disturbed by human manipulation. Places and global events that have defined the visual media world of recent decades are represented, including the familiar, almost iconic pictures of atomic bomb tests; 9/11; scenes of warfare in Baghdad, Beirut, and Grozny; the killing fields of Cambodia; and the ravaged Asian coasts after the 2004 tsunami, among others. Taken together, these masterworks create an encyclopedic compendium of contemporary visual culture that also actively engages the history of landscape painting. Jpegs is a testament to the effects of the digital age on the medium of photography.”

Text from Artdaily.org website


Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg ny02' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
‘jpeg ny02′
2004

 

Book available from the Amazon website from May 2009

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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