31
Mar
09

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

March 2009

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg sh01' 2005

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg sh01
2005
C-print
© Thomas Ruff

 

 

I greatly admire this series of work. It takes a very special artist and a very special person to look at the world – and specifically how the world is represented and presented to us in scrappy, low quality jpgs – and recognise a different perspective, an alternate reality that is staring us in the face, that is confronting us every single day. No body but Ruff did.

Great artists are always ahead of their time, always probing beyond, offering up a mirror to an inchoate, uninformed society. Robert Frank did it with The Americans in the 1950s, and the Americans didn’t like what they were being shown by an outsider, a foreigner. Lee Friedlander did it in the 1970s with his segmented images and reflections, his informality and perspicacity. Now Ruff abstracts an already abstracted and distracted world, a world flooded with meaningless images. He makes giant the landscape, war, eruption, disruption and destruction until when we approach too close… the image dissolves before our eyes. Into nothingness. We retreat in confusion.

He is aware, while so many of us are unaware. He is fully conscious and observant of the processes and effects of contemporary digital photography. And yet. And yet, these fractured images approach the sublime in some mysterious way.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg ca02' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg ca02
2004
C-print
© Thomas Ruff

 

 

“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 colour 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 encyclopaedic 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 cdf01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg cdf01
2004
C-print
69 5/8 x 87 ¾ in. (177 x 223 cm.)
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg bb03' 2007

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg bb03
2007
C-print
72 7/8 x 98 1/4 in. (185.1 x 249.56 cm)
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg ny02' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg ny02
2004
C-print
© Thomas Ruff

 

 

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 colour. A fittingly deluxe and oversized volume, Jpegs (Aperture, June 2009) is the first monograph dedicated exclusively to the publication of Ruff’s remarkable series.

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 encyclopaedic 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

 

jpeg-soi01-2005

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg soi01
2005
C-print
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg msh01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg msh01
2004
C-print
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg ny01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff
jpeg ny01
2004
C-print
276 × 188 cm
© Thomas Ruff

 

 

Book available from the Amazon website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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