Posts Tagged ‘indexicality

08
May
12

Exhibition: ‘A New Vision: Modernist Photography’ at the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire

Exhibition dates: 4th February – 13th May 2012

.

The conceptual idea of Modernist photography is “look at this,” look at how photography interprets the world: through light, lens, glass, film, paper, brain and eye. Early Modernist photography occurred in the first two decades of the twentieth century (through the vision of Alfred Steiglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Steichen et al) before it was even named “Modernism” and led to radically different forms of artistic expression that broke the pictorialist conventions of the era. Gritty realism was the order of the day, clean lines, repetition of form, strange viewpoints where the photographers observation of the subject is as important as the subject itself. Look at how I, and the camera, see the world: that is all there is, the indexical relation to the word of truth.

“Artists and photographers began looking at the photographs used in mass culture, to develop an aesthetic true to the intrinsic qualities of photographic materials: the accurate rendition of visible reality; framing that crops into a larger spatial and temporal context; viewpoints and perspectives generated by modern lenses and typically modern spatial organizations (for example, tall buildings); and sharp, black-and-white images. This objective, mechanized vision became art by foregrounding not its subject matter, but its formal structure as an image.” (Patrizia di Bello. Modernsim and Photography on Answers.com)

Steiglitz and Strand, “often abstracted reality by eliminating social or spatial context; by using viewpoints that flattened pictorial space, acknowledging the flatness of the picture plane; and by emphasizing shape and tonal rendition in highlights and shadows as much as in the actual subject matter.” (Ibid.,) Such use of highlights and shadows can be seen in the most famous work by the photographer Helmar Lerski, Transformation Through Light (1937), a photograph of which is presented below. Have a look on Google Images to see the changes wrought on the same face just through the use of light.

It is interesting to note the inclusion of photographers such as Paul Caponigro and Brett Weston in this exhibition as later examples of artists influenced by language of Modernism. While this may be partially true by the mid-1970s the mechanized vision of early Modernism (with its link to the indexicality of the image, its documentary authority and ability to express the individuality of the artist) had dissipated with the advent of the seminal exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape (International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, 1975). “The pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.” These typologies, often shown in grids, “depicted urban or suburban realities under changes in an allegedly detached approach… casting a somewhat ironic or critical eye on what American society had become.” (Wikipedia) While the photographs by Weston and Caponigro do show some allegiance to Modernist Photography they are of an altogether different order of things, one that is not predicated on what the object is or what the artist says it is (its reality), but also, what else it can be.

Of course, this leads into more critical readings on the meaning of photographs that emerged in the late 1970s – 80s. As Patrizia di Bello has insightfully written,

“John Tagg, in ‘The Burden of Representation’ (1988), argues that the indexical nature of the photograph does not explain its meanings. ‘What makes the link between the pre-photographic referent and the sign is a discriminatory technical, cultural and historical process in which particular optical and chemical devices are set to work to organise experience and desire and produce a new reality – the paper image which, through further processes, may become meaningful in all sorts of ways.’ Rather than being a guarantor of realism, the camera is itself an ideological construct, producing an all-seeing spectator and effacing the means of its production. Analyses of who has possessed the means to represent and who has been represented reveal that photography has been profoundly implicated in issues of political, cultural, and sexual domination. This area of investigation has especially drawn upon Michel Foucault’s (1926-84) reflections on the emergence of forms of knowledge; on the modern notion of the subject; and on practices of power which produce subjects actively participating in the dominant disciplinary order. Particularly influential have been his rejection of the notion of a pre-given self or human nature, and his insistence that every system of power and knowledge also creates possibilities of resistance. The role of critics then becomes the deconstruction of dominant assumptions within and about representations, to identify works embodying the possibility of resistance.” (Patrizia di Bello. Theories of Photographic Meaning on Answers.com)

The camera as ideological construct. Photography as profoundly implicated in issues of political, cultural, and sexual domination. In other words who is looking, at what, what is being pictured or excluded, who has control over that image (and access to it), who understands the language of that representation and controls its meaning (this picturing of a version of reality), and who resists the dominant assumptions within and about its representations.

Modernist Photography does indeed have a lot to answer for.

.

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

.

.

.

Paul Caponigro
Two Pears, Cushing, ME
1999
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 in. x 9 11/16 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
Gift of Paul Caponigro, photographer

.

.

Brett Weston
(Untitled) Tide Pool and Kelp
c. 1980
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 in. x 13 11/16 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
Gift from the Christian K. Keesee Collection
© The Brett Weston Archive

.

.

Brett Weston
(Untitled) Branches and Snow
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print
12 3/4 in. x 10 5/8 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
Gift from the Christian K. Keesee Collection
© The Brett Weston Archive

.

.

Helmar Lerski
Metamorphosis through Light #587
1935-36
Vintage gelatin silver print
11 1/2 in. x 9 1/4 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire

.
Helmar Lerski (18 February 1871, Strasbourg – 19 September 1956, Zürich) was a photographer who laid some of the important foundations of modern photography. He focused mainly on portraits and the technique of photography with mirrors. Lerski concentrated on archetypal characteristics rather than on individual features, favouring extreme close-ups and tight cropping, and he became renowned for his experiments with multiple light sources.

Lerski was involved concurrently in the two major, emergent mediums of his time: film and photography. Born in Alsace in the then German city of Strausburg, he became involved in the theater and, in 1896, moved to New York to pursue a career in acting, eventually working at the Irving Place Theater and later the German Pabst Theater. It was in this setting that Lerski first became aware of the unique visual effects achievable with stage lighting. Drawing from his acting experience, he began investigating photography as an artistic medium after meeting his wife, also a photographer. While photographing their colleagues, Lerski experimented with a series of portraits that severely manipulated the lighting effects. The resulting images formed a base for his later success in both commercial and art photography… This body of work upholds the artist’s declaration that “in every human being there is everything; the question is only what the light falls on.”

In 1937 he created his masterpiece, Transformation Through Light, on a rooftop terrace in Tel Aviv, in which he projected 175 different images of a single model, altered using multiple mirrors to direct intense sunlight towards his face at various angles and intensities. Siegfried Kracauer wrote about this series in his Theory of Film (Oxford University Press, 1960, p. 162):

“His model, he [Lerski] told me in Paris, was a young man with a nondescript face who posed on the roof of a house. Lerski took over a hundred pictures of that face from a very short distance, each time subtly changing the light with the aid of screens. Big close-ups, these pictures detailed the texture of the skin so that cheeks and brows turned into a maze of inscrutable runes reminiscent of soil formations, as they appear from an airplane. The result was amazing. None of the photographs recalled the model; and all of them differed from each other…

Out of the original face there arose, evoked by the varying lights, a hundred different faces, among them those of a hero, a prophet, a peasant, a dying soldier, an old woman, a monk. Did these portraits, if portraits they were, anticipate the metamorphoses which the young man would undergo in the future? Or were they just plays of light whimsically projecting on his face dreams and experiences forever alien to him? Proust would have been delighted in Lerski’s experiment with its unfathomable implications.”

Text from Wikipedia, Weimar Blog and Articles and Texticles websites

.

.

Margaret Bourke-White
Turbine, Niagara Falls Power Co.,
1928
Gelatin silver print
13 1/2 in. x 9 1/2 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
Photo © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

.

.

“The Currier Museum of Art’s latest special exhibition traces the development of the modernist movement from the 1920s to its impact on artists today. Featuring more than 150 works displayed in three expansive galleries, A New Vision: Modernist Photography reflects the international nature of modernism, and includes American photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward and Brett Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, Man Ray and Charles Sheeler, as well as European artists including Lotte Jacobi, László Moholy-Nagy, Helmar Lerski and Imre Kinszki…

[Marcus: Imre Kinszki (1901 – 1944) was a pioneer of modernist photography in Hungary, and a founder member of the group called Modern Hungarian Photographers. His son died in Buchenwald while he died on a death march to Sachsenhausen in 1944. See a moving video on YouTube where his daughter, who survived the ghetto, Judit Kinszki Talks About Her Father. For more images by Imre Kinszik please see the Articles and Texticles website from which this heartbreaking text is taken. It makes me very angry and very sad.

“In the ghetto we didn’t know anything about Auschwitz and what happened to those in forced labor service. It didn’t even occur to us that my father might not be alive. My mother and I went every day to the Keleti railroad station and went up to everybody who got off and asked them. Once my mother found a man who had been in the same group, and he remembered my father. He said that their car had been unhooked and the train went on towards Germany. They got off somewhere and went on foot towards Sachsenhausen – this was a death march. They spent the night on a German farm, in a barn on straw, and the man [who came back] said his legs had been so full of injuries that he couldn’t go on, and had decided that he would take his chances: he wormed himself into the straw. He did it, they didn’t find him, and that’s how he survived. He didn’t know about the others. We never found anyone else but this single man. So it’s clear that somewhere between this farm and Sachsenhausen everyone had been shot. But we interpreted this news in such a way that all we knew about him was that he would arrive sometime soon. We didn’t have news of my brother for a long time, then my mother found a young man who had worked with my brother. He told us that when they arrived in Buchenwald in winter, they were driven out of the wagon, and asked them what kind of qualifications they had. My brother told them that he was a student. This young man told us that the Germans immediately tied him up, it was a December morning, and they hosed him down with water just to watch him freeze to death. Those who didn’t have a trade were stripped of their clothes and hosed with cold water until they froze. I think that at that moment something broke in my mother. She was always waiting for my father, she refused to declare him dead even though she would have been eligible for a widow’s pension. But she waited for my father until the day she died. She couldn’t wait for my brother, because she had to believe what she had heard. Why would that young man have said otherwise?”]

.
Boris Ignatovich’s 1930s Tramway Handles and Margaret Bourke-White’s 1928 photo Turbine, Niagara Falls Power Co. [see below] showcase modernist images of isolated elements from the manmade world. While close-ups of nature, such as Brett Weston’s 1980 (Untitled) Tide Pool and Kelp, reveal striking abstract compositions that emphasize the repetition of patterns and dramatic contrast of light and shade. This new vision shared by modernist photographers makes form and composition as important as subject matter in their photographs.

“This exhibition illustrates the diversity of the modernist movement and its important contribution to the art of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Kurt Sundstrom, curator of the exhibition. Adding, “Modernist photographers expanded the visual vocabulary of art – making everyday objects – from grass, drying laundry, machinery and lumber to details of the human body – subjects worthy of artistic interest.”

Contemporary New England photographers are still building upon the artistic language that their predecessors developed. Paul Caponigro, who lives in Cushing, Maine, Carl Hyatt of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Arno Minkkinen of Andover, MA all clearly connect to modernism and are part of A New Vision.

A New Vision also explores the reciprocal influences among all media that shaped the modern art movement. Artists in the varied media shared a common vision; to illustrate this interconnectedness, paintings by Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler and Childe Hassam are paired with photographs in this exhibition.”

Press release from the Currier Museum of Art website

.

.

Boris Ignatovich
Tramway Handles
1930s (printed 1955)
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 in. x 6 3/8 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
Art © Estate of Boris Ignatovich/RAO, Moscow/VAGA, New York.

.
Boris Ignatovich, born in Lutsk, Ukraine in 1899, was a Soviet photographer and a member of the Russian avant-garde movement. Ignatovich began his career in 1918, first working as a journalist and a newspaper editor before taking up photography in 1923. In the early 1920s he worked for a number of publications, most notably, Bednota (Poverty), Krasnaya Niva (Red Field) and Ogonyok. Ignatovich’s first photographic success was a documentary series about villagers in the Ramenskoe’s Workers’ settlement, which coincided with the first 5-year plan after Stalin’s victory. Ignatovich tried to alter the traditional format of documentary photography by using very low and very high unconventional angles, developing new perspectives, and including birds-eye constructions, which rendered the landscape as an abstract composition. In 1926 Ignatovich participated at the exhibition of the Association of Moscow Photo-Correspondents, and later became one of its leaders. In 1927, he photographed power plants and factories for Bednota and developed close association with Alexander Rodchenko, as they photographed for Dajosch together. Ignatovich’s famous photo stories also included the first American tractors in the USSR and aerial photographs of Leningrad and Moscow. In 1928, Ignatovich participated in the exhibition 10 Years of Soviet Photography, in Moscow and Leningrad, which was organized by the State Academy of Artistic Sciences. Due to his companionship with Rodchenko, Ignatovich was greatly influenced by his style and unconventional techniques. Both became members of the distinguished Oktiabr, the October group, which was a union of artists, architects, film directors, and photographers. In February of 1930, a photographic section of the October group was organized. Rodchenko was the head of the section and wrote its program. Other members include Dmitrii Debabov; Boris, Ol’ga, and Elizaveta Ignatovich; Vladimir Griuntal’; Roman Karmen; Eleazar Langman; Moriakin; Abram Shterenberg; and Vitalii Zhemchuzhnyi. The October group, whose styles favored fragmentary techniques and the distortion of images in an avant-garde manner, captured the idea of a world in dynamic form and rhythms.

First general October exhibition opened at Gorky Park, a park of culture and rest named after Gorky in Moscow. The photography section, organized by Rodchenko and Stepanova, includes the magazine Radioslushatel, designed by Stepanova and illustrated with photographs by Griuntal, Ignatovich, and Rodchenko. When Rodchenko was expelled from the October group for his formalist photography, Ignatovich took over as head of the photographic section of the group until the group was dissolved in 1932 by governmental decree.  Apart from October, Ignatovich worked on documentary films from 1930 to 1932. As a movie cameraman, Ignatovich worked on the first sound film, Olympiada of the Arts. After 1932 he began to pioneer ideas such as the theory of collectivism in photojournalism at the Soyuzfoto agency where he developed specific rules and laws of photography, so much so that the photographers working under him were obliged to follow and jointly credit their work to Ignatovich by signing their photographs “Ignatovich Brigade.” Ignatovich participated in 1935 Exhibition of the Work of the Masters of Soviet Photography as well as the All-Union Exhibition of Soviet photography at the State Pushkin Museum in 1937. During the 1930s, Ignatovich also contributed photographs to the USSR In Construction, and in 1941, worked as a war photo correspondent on the front. After the War, Ignatovich concentrated on landscape and portraiture, experimenting with the use of symbols, picture captions, and ideas of collectivism, particularly at the Soyuzfoto agency where he continued to work as a photojournalist until he died in 1976.

Text from the Nailya Alexander Gallery website

.

.

Brett Weston
(Untitled) Fremont Bridge, Portland
1971
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 in. x 10 1/2 in.
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire. Gift from the Christian K. Keesee Collection
© The Brett Weston Archive

.

.

Currier Museum of Art
150 Ash Street, Manchester
New Hampshire 03104
T: 603.669.6144

Opening hours:
Sunday, Monday, Wednesday – Friday 11am – 5pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm

The Currier Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

07
Nov
09

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Demand in Berlin’ at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 18th September – 17th January 2010

 

Thomas Demand. 'Diving Board' (Sprungturm)1994

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Diving Board (Sprungturm)
1994
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

“It’s not about the real place,” Demand has said. “It’s much more about what we have seen as the real place.”

All photographs in the posting appear in the exhibition.

A review of the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition can be found on the 5B4: Photographs and Books blog.

Marcus

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

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Brennerautobahn' 1994

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Brennerautobahn
1994
C-Print/ Diasec
150 x 118 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand. 'Tavern IV' 2006

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Klause IV / Tavern IV
2006
C-Print / Diasec
103 x 68 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand. 'Bathroom' 1997

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Badezimmer / Bathroom
1997
C-Print / Diasec
160 x 122 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Treppenhaus / Staircase' 1995

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Treppenhaus / Staircase
1995
C-Print/ Diasec
150 x 118 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

“The Nationalgalerie presents Thomas Demand’s show National Gallery Berlin. From September 18, 2009, the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin devotes a comprehensive solo show to one of the internationally most influential artists of our time: Thomas Demand. It is so far the largest presentation of his work in this country. However, the exhibition National Gallery is not designed as an overall retrospective but it is firmly dedicated to only one subject, which is perhaps the most important in Demand’s multi-facetted oeuvre: Germany.

Living in Berlin since 1996 Thomas Demand is an artist known for his large-format photographs, which explore the blank domain between reality and the ways it is being represented. He is undoubtedly regarded as one of the most renowned artists of his generation. Using paper and cardboard he builds three-dimensional, usually life-size models of places which often make references to pictures found in the mass media. By taking photographs of the scenery created in this way, he produces artefacts of a kind of their own which play with the beholder’s ideas of fiction and reality.

Until January, 17, 2010, about 40 works by the artist will be on display in the glass hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie built by Mies van der Rohe. There is hardly a location which is more suitable to convey to the beholder the panorama of a nation’s history than the large glass hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie, which is not only regarded as an incunabulum of post-war architecture but also as a symbol for the self-image of the Federal Republic of Germany at the former border between East and West. The exceptional exhibition architecture of the firm, Caruso St. John, London, forms an ideal link between Demand’s works and Mies van der Rohe’s bright hall.

Each picture shown in the exhibition is accompanied by a specific caption written by Botho Strauß which does not so much explain or define Demand’s work but rather creates a space between the pictures and the texts to allow new versions of interpretation.

Text from the Thomas Demand at the New National Gallery website [Online] Cited 01/11/2009 no longer available online

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Copyshop' 1999

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Copyshop
1999
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Drafting Room' 1996

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Drafting Room
1996
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand. 'Laboratory (77-E-217)' 2000

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Laboratory (77-E-217)
2000
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand. 'Haltestelle' 2009

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Haltestelle
2009
C-Print / Diasec, 240 x 330 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

 

List of works that appear in the exhibition:

Archiv / Archive, 1995, C-Print/ Diasec, 183,5 x 233 cm
Attempt, 2005, C-Print/ Diasec, 166 x 190 cm
Badezimmer / Bathroom, 1997, C-Print/ Diasec, 160 x 122 cm
Balkone / Balconies, 1997, C-Print/ Diasec, 150 x 128 cm
Brennerautobahn, 1994, C-Print/ Diasec, 150 x 118 cm
Büro / Office, 1995, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 240 cm
Campingtisch / Camping Table, 1999, C-Print/ Diasec, 85 x 58 cm
Copyshop, 1999, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 300 cm
Drei Garagen / Three Garages, 1995, C-Print/ Diasec, 108 x 223 cm
Fabrik (ohne Namen), 1994, C-Print/ Diasec, 120 x 185 cm
Fassade / Facade, 2004, C-Print/ Diasec, 178 x 250 cm
Fenster / Window, 1998, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 286 cm
Fotoecke, 2009, C-Print/ Diasec, 180 x 198 cm
Gangway, 2001, C-Print/ Diasec, 225 x 180 cm
Grube / Pit, 1999, C-Print/ Diasec, 229 x 167 cm
Haltestelle, 2009, C-Print/Diasec, 240 x 330 cm
Heldenorgel, 2009, C-Print/Diasec, 240 x 380 cm
Hinterhaus, 2005, C-Print/ framed, 26.9 x 21.5 cm
Kabine, 2002, C-Print/ Diasec, 180 x 254 cm
Kinderzimmer /Nursery, 2009, C-Print/Diasec, 140 x 230 cm
Klause 1 / Tavern, 2006, C-Print/ Diasec, 275 x 170 cm
Klause 2 / Tavern, 2006, C-Print/ Diasec, 178 x 244 cm
Klause 3 / Tavern, 2006, C-Print/ Diasec, 199 x 258 cm
Klause 4 / Tavern, 2006, C-Print/ Diasec, 103 x 68 cm
Klause 5 / Tavern, 2006, C-Print/ Diasec, 197 x 137 cm
Labor (77-E-217), 2000, C-Print/ Diasec, 180 x 268 cm
Lichtung / Clearing, 2003, C-Print/ Diasec, 192 x 495 cm
Modell / Model, 2000, C-Print/ Diasec, 164,5 x 210 cm
Paneel / Peg Board, 1996, C-Print/ Diasec, 160 x 121 cm
Parlament / Parliament, 2009, C-Print/ Diasec, 180 x 223 cm
Raum / Room, 1994, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 270 cm
Sprungturm / Diving Board, 1994, C-Print/ Diasec, 150 x 118 cm
Spüle / Sink, 1997, C-Print/ Diasec, 52 x 56.5 cm
Studio, 1997, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 349.5 cm
Rasen / Lawn, 1998, C-Print/ Diasec, 122 x 170 cm
Terrasse / Terrace, 1998, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 268 cm
Treppenhaus / Staircase, 1995, C-Print/ Diasec, 150 x 118 cm
Wand /Mural, 1999, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 270 cm
Zeichensaal / Drafting Room, 1996, C-Print/ Diasec, 183.5 x 285 cm

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Sink' 1997

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Sink
1997
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Tavern 3' 2006

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Tavern 3
2006
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Archive' 1995

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Archive
1995
C-Print / Diasec
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964) 'Lawn' 1998

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Lawn
1998
C-Print / Diasec
122 x 170 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Thomas Demand. 'Office' 1995

 

Thomas Demand (German, b. 1964)
Büro / Office
1995
C-Print / Diasec
183.5 x 240 cm
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2009

 

 

Neue Nationalgalerie
Potsdamer Straße 50
10785
Berlin
Kulturforum-Potsdamer Platz

Opening hours:
During necessary renovations, the Neue Nationalgalerie is closed since January 2015 for several years.

Neue Nationalgalerie website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

25
May
09

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

Exhibition dates: 21st May – 13th September 2009

 

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

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Interieur 2D (Tegernsee)
1982
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK, Wien 2009

 

 

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

.
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 further 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, askance? with a paradoxical intent? at these unemotional images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

  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

 

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Zycles 3048' 2008

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Zycles 3048
2008
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK Wien, 2009

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Zycles 3045' 2008

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Zycles 3045
2008
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK Wien, 2009

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Cassini 01' 2008

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Cassini 01
2008
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist and Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Cassini 06' 2008

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Cassini 06
2008
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist and Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Cassini 08' 2008

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Cassini 08
2008
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist and Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Cassini 03' 2008

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Cassini 03
2008
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist and Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich
© Thomas Ruff

 

 

“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 [Online] Cited 24/05/2009 no longer available online

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Portrait (A. Siekmann)' 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (A. Siekmann)
1987
Chromogenic print
210 x 165 cm (82 11/16 x 64 15/16 in.)
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK, Wien 2009

 

 

During the late 1980s Ruff photographed his fellow students at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, combining the typological mode of his teacher Bernd Becher with the serial progressions and primary structures of Minimalism. The large scale and technical perfection of Ruff’s portraits refer to both the museum and the street – to billboards and heroic painting – while elevating the anonymous sitter to the stature and visibility of a public figure. Instead of presuming to depict the transcendent, individual essence of the sitter, however, Ruff’s portraits deliberately assume the neutrality of the mug shot, physiognomic study, and identity card, and, by extension, the entire brightly lit world of surveillance in which his subjects were raised. The age and milieu of his sitters are crucial to the pictures’ meaning: these young media-savvy people are not threatened by the camera eye but adjust themselves comfortably yet firmly to its probing vision. The results are both seductive and subtly disquieting, like studying a human specimen whose every pore and hair is available for careful study, yet whose thoughts and feelings are always just out of reach.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Portrait (A. Kachold)' 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (A. Kachold)
1987
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK, Wien 2009

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Portrait (S. Weirauch)' 1988

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (S. Weirauch)
1988
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK, Wien 2009

 

 

“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

 

 

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.

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 revolutionised 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 [Online] Cited 24/05/2009 no longer available online

 

Thomas Ruff numbers among today’s most important photographers, his oeuvre encompassing such diverse subject areas as people, architecture, the universe, and the Internet. With its extensive solo exhibition presenting a total of about 150 works, the Kunsthalle Wien offers the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s manifold production in Austria.

Thomas Ruff strikes us as a sharp and concentrated observer rendering his motifs with a hyper-precise, chirurgic gaze. To him, the objective representation of reality is no neutral process, but something questioned with each new photograph. Running through the exhibition like a thread is the apparent pair of opposites of surface and depth and its highly variable manifestations. Next to his series of large-format portraits from the 1980s, for which Ruff received international acclaim, and his architectural photographs of buildings by Herzog & de Meuron, which are based on instructions, the show focuses on his most recent cassini and zycles series. Digitally processing images of the planet Saturn and its moons from the NASA website, the artist explores the notions of the exemplary, of reality, and of zeitgeist. Also depicting the pair of concepts surfaces/depths, the seemingly three-dimensional curves of Ruff’s zycles unfold the sensory experience of roaming virtual depths reserved to the human eye alone.

Text from the Kunsthalle Wien website

 

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

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Herzog & de Meuron, Ricola Mulhouse
1994
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© Thomas Ruff

 

Thomas Ruff. 'House Nr. 11 III' 1990

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
House Nr. 11 III
1990
Chromogenic print
Courtesy der Künstler / the artist
© VBK, Wien 2009

 

 

“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 of 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 [Online] Cited 24/05/2009 no longer available online

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Jpeg icbm05' 2007

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Jpeg icbm05
2007
Chromogenic print

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Jpeg rl104' 2007

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Jpeg rl104
2007
Chromogenic print

 

 

Kunsthalle Wien
Museumsplatz 1
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 7 pm
Thursdays 11 am – 9 pm

Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich website

Kunsthalle Wien website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




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: ‘Mask’ 1994

Join 2,542 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Archives

Categories