Thomas Ruff: “Nude ku 12”, 2000, C- print, signed, dated, numbered en verso, edition of 50, size: 60 x 49,8 cm. Price upon request.
About this Artwork
Since his time at the Dusseldorf Art Academy, Ruff has been fascinated by the work of Gerhard Richter. Born in Dresden in 1932, Richter had developed a style of painting that used photographs as a starting point. Like many artists before him Richter was fascinated by the human form and produced very beautiful, often blurred images of female nudes, some of which are quite explicit. Ruff, having studied Richter’s work, began to investigate the nude as a genre. He became fascinated by the proliferation of pornographic images available on the internet, which are usually very low resolution (only 72 pixels, or dots of colour, per inch). Taking these low-resolution images Ruff removed extraneous details, altered the tone, contrast and colour and produced them on a much larger scale, creating a refined but very blurred image. With the nudes, Ruff substitutes something celebratory for suspicion and anger; he takes on a genre everyone is an expert on but few artists have employed without running into trouble… these pictures are analytic… objective, but they’re also sweetly, luxuriously visual. Up close… skin melts into tiny, pointillist pixels, which then warp and moiré; colors shift, pictorial space contorts. Sex slips into something ravishingly, optically comfortable.
About Thomas Ruff
Thomas Ruff, one of six children, was born in 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach in the Black Forest, Germany. Ruff was an academic child excelling in maths and science. Ruff attended the Staatlichen Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1977 to 1985. Ruff now lives and works in Düsseldorf. Inspired by the lectures of Benjamin H.D. Buchloh and the photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ruff began to work in a more minimal and conceptual way. He studied alongside artists such as Candida Höfer, Reinhard Mucha, Klaus Rinke and Thomas Struth. Through an acquaintance Ruff met students from Gerhard Richter’s class, including Michael van Ofen, Thomas Schütte and Volker Tannert. In 1979, to finance his studies, Ruff worked for a commercial photographer who made brochures for the building industry. This practical experience, combined with his interest in the urban environment of his home town, the work of Eugène Atget, and the architectural photography of the Bauhaus, led Ruff to begin work on a series of photographs of interiors and buildings.
Thomas Ruff’s photography suggests the possibilities of his chosen medium, as he might use digital manipulation for one subject and antiquated darkroom techniques for another. Ruff works in series, creating defined bodies of work whose subjects include empty domestic interiors, appropriated interplanetary images captured by NASA, abstractions of modernist architecture, three-dimensional computer-generated Pop imagery, and obscured pornography. Ruff’s portraiture series of the early 1980s (his first to receive critical acclaim) featured groupings of large three-quarter portraits like so many passport photos; their enlarged scale offered a startling level of legibility. Though these, like many of his photographic series, seem to beg a sociocultural interpretation, perhaps the most constant feature in Ruff’s career is his disavowal of such a reading. Instead Ruff focuses on aesthetics and process, building an eclectic oeuvre not defined by genre, method, or theme, but rather by stark imagery, relative conceptual seriality of subject, and the clever subversion of the printed image.
Work by the artist is held in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, Austria; Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent.
More Artwork by Thomas Ruff
Thomas Ruff: “Nudes kn 30”, 2000, C- print, signed, dated and numbered en verso, edition 0f 100, size: 52 x 41,9 cm / 60 x 49,8 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ‘nudes’, 2001, set of 8 Iris prints on rag paper, each print 75 x 60 cm (29½ x 23½ in), each signed and numbered on verso. Edition of 50. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: “Interior 1a”, 1979, C-print, © the artist Courtesy the artist & the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Thomas Ruff: “Interieur 3B”, 1980, C-print, signiert, 27.5 x 20.5 cm. Price upon request.
About the ‘Interior’ and ‘Architecture’ Series by Thomas Ruff
The Interiors series show a single element of a room with as much simplicity and detachment as possible, whilst capturing the mood and character of the entire space. Ruff photographed each interior scene as he found it, with no additional lighting or staging. Initially making black and white images he quickly realised that they seemed very artificial: ‘our eyes see colours; reality presents itself to us in colour’. During the early 1980s many of his friends and his family refurbished their homes. Ruff felt these new interiors were less interesting and he stopped producing work for this series. Influenced by the architectural photography of the Bauhaus Ruff began his Housesseries. He photographed unspectacular buildings in and around Dusseldorf – choosing those constructed between the 1950s and the 1970s. He took these images early in the year, when skies were often cloudy and grey, and he worked early in the morning when buildings showed little signs of human presence. Even so, he altered some of the images by removing a tree, a traffic sign and closing an attic window. By doing so the focus is on the utilitarian architecture, forcing the viewer to consider the building itself very closely.
Thomas Ruff:” Haus Nr. 7″, 1983, C-print, © the artist. Courtesy the artist & the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
Thomas Ruff: “Barcelona Pavillion, d.b.p.08”, 2000/2004, from the serie L.M.V.D.R., Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Serie, C-Print, signed, edition 0f 250, size: 41,9 x 30,5 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff:”m.d.p.n. 01″, 2002, C-Print, Diasec Face, edition of 5 (+ 2 AP), signed, dated, numbered en verso, size: 186 x 270 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Bauhaus, w.h.s. 01.’, from the ‘Mies van der Rohe Series’, 2001. C-Print on Kodak-Professional photopaper, size picture: 18 x 25,2 cm, total size: 24 x 33 cm, signed, dated, numbered en verso. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: “l.m.v.d.r. (h.e.k.04)”, 2001-04, C- print from the ‘Mies van der Rohe Series’, 2001, signed, numbered, edition 0f 40, size: 58×70 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: “l.m.v.d.r. (h.u.p.01)’, 2001-04, C- print from the ‘Mies van der Rohe Series’, 2001, signed, numbered, edition 0f 40, size: 58×70 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ‘l.m.v.d.r.’, 2004, set of 6 C-prints mounted on aluminum (Dibond), 58 x 70 cm / 23 x 27½ in, each signed and numbered. Edition of 40, in aluminum box. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: „Portrait 1989 (I. Graw)“, 1989 / 2012, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 150, size: 30 x 22 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Portrait (A. Kachold),’ 1987 / 2012, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 150, size: 40 x 30 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Porträt (K. Lehmann)’, 1984 / 2012 , C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 150, size: 24 x 18 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: „Porträt (C. von Heyl)“, 1985 / 2012, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 150, size: 40 x 30 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ”Bernd Jünger, May 1985′ , 2012, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 150, size: 24 x 18 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff : ‘Portrait J Sasse’, 1984 / 2012, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 150, size: 24 x 18 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Andere Doppelportraits’, 1996, 2 silkscreens, each print 72 x 104 cm (28 x 40″), each signed and numbered. Edition of 40. Price upon request.
About the serie ‘Portraits’ by Thomas Ruff
During his time as a student Ruff worked as the ‘art director’ for the Dusseldorf post-punk band EKG. In return, the band members modelled for Ruff’s early photographic experiments. It was at this time that he began working on a series of portraits, a genre that had all but vanished from the Dusseldorf Academy. Ruff embarked on a period of research into the history of portraiture and carried out his own experiments with composition and framing. He decided on a style of portrait that would be as neutral as possible, with the aim of emphasising the face of the sitter. Ruff requested that his models try to be expressionless, and each one was photographed wearing their ordinary clothes, against a plain background. French theorist Roland Barthes, in his book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1982), suggests that it is possible for a photograph to convey deep emotion, and that there is a moment when the subject of a photograph makes a direct link with the emotions of the viewer through the surface of the image. Ruff, however, takes a much more pragmatic view, convinced that a photograph is only able to express the superficial – literally showing us the surface of its subject (and in itself the photograph is nothing more than a surface).
Ruff first produced these works on a large scale in 1986. The Portraits consolidated his international reputation and gave him the financial support he needed to begin work on a series of photographs of buildings.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Substrat 34 I, 2007-2016’, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso, edition of 50, size picture: 45 x 40 cm, total size: 55 x 50 cm. Price upon request.
Thomas Ruff:”Substrat 17 / 2003/2010″, C-Print, signed, numbered en verso. edition of 100, size picture: 42 x 32 cm, total size: 50 x 40 cm. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ”Substrate“, 2002-2003. 8-part Leparello, digital pigment print (Ditone) on baryte paper, signed and numbered en verso, edition of 75, total size: 32 x 200 cm. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ‘Substrate’, 2003, Suite of 4 ditone prints on 250 g/m² satin paper, mounted on aluminum board (Dibond), each print 100 x 75 cm (39½ x 29½), signed and numbered, edition of 45. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: “Substrat Blue“, 2009, Lithograph printed on handmade paper, signed, numbered, edition 0f 100, picture size: 62 x 60 cm, total size: 100 x 68,5 cm. Price upon request
About ‘Substratum’ by Thomas Ruff
In a dramatic move away from different forms of representation Ruff has recently began to create abstract works using digital technology. While looking for source material for the nudes series Ruff realised that photographic images, particularly those available on the internet, no longer simply depict reality, but are representing visual stimuli transmitted directly by electronic means. In order to explore this visual ‘nothingness’, Ruff scanned pages from comics, layering different images together and multiplying the images onto themselves. By making it impossible for the viewer to draw out any sense of what the original image may have been Ruff has created works more or less devoid of meaning. The Substratum series presents spectacular abstract compositions of intense colour, and, to some extent, they epitomise the complex relationship between photography and painting, abstraction and representation that has preoccupied Ruff throughout his career.
Thomas Ruff: ‘jpegs I’, 2005, set of 5 digital pigment prints (Ditone) on photo paper, size each: 120 x 90 cm / 47¼ x 35½”. each signed and numbered on verso, edition of 45 + e.a. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ‘jpeg ti01’, 2005, C-Print on photo carton, signed, numbered, dated en verso, edition of 100 + e.a., picture size: 46,3 x 32 cm, total size: 57 x 42 cm. Price upon request
About the serie ‘jpeg’ by Thomas Ruff
In 2007, Ruff completed his monumental 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. Many of Ruff’s works in the series focus on idyllic, seemingly untouched landscapes, and conversely, scenes of war, and nature disturbed by human manipulation.Taken together, these masterworks create an encyclopedic compendium of contemporary visual culture that also actively engages the history of landscape painting. A fittingly deluxe and oversized volume, Jpegs is the first monograph dedicated exclusively to the publication of Ruff’s remarkable series.
Thomas Ruff: ‘zycles’, 2009, Set of four digital pigment prints (Ditone) on semi-transparent polyester foil, different sizes: 70 x 122, 70 x 114, 70 x 62 and 70 x 54 cm (27½ x 48, 27½ x 45, 27½ x 24½ and 27½ x 21″), edition of 15, each signed and numbered. Price upon request
All the 4 prints in one photo:
Thomas Ruff: ‘zycles II’, 2014, set of three digital pigment prints (Ditone) on semi-transparent polyester foil; left and right image size: 100 x 76.7 cm each, center image size: 100 x 80 cm (39½ x 30¼ or 39½ x 31½ inches). Edition of 15, each signed and numbered. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff : ‘cassini/zycles’, 2010, set of 3 digital pigment prints (Ditone) on photo rag paper, size each: 85 x 68 cm (33½ x 26¾ in), edition of 30, each signed and numbered on verso. Price upon request
About the serie ‘zycles’ by Thomas Ruff
The zycles series, grounded in mathematics and physics, shows computer screen-grab recordings of curves modeled in three dimensions. The views captured by the computer are produced as large-scale chromogenic prints, or are printed directly onto canvas. Inspired by 19th century science books, Ruff’s “zycles” present abstract contours based on “cycloids,” the mathematical curves obtained from rolling one curve along a second, fixed curve. Particularly interesting to Ruff was Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s (1831-1879) treatise on electro-magnetism, accompanied by copperplate engravings of magnetic fields. Ruff found these delicate traceries, while not intentionally aesthetic, suggestive of minimalist drawings. To explore their visual and spatial possibilities, Ruff used a three-dimensional rendering program to translate the algebraic formulae of the cycloids — regarded in mathematics as “the most aesthetic of curves” — into computer-generated imagery. The resulting virtual structures display the intricate linear filigree of cycloids as they would appear in space. The spiraling formations, always faithful to their mathematical origins, evoke a multitude of forms: the trajectories of planets, cascading ribbons, line drawings, or musical vibrations.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Cassini 13’, 2009, C-print, signed on verso, edition of 6, size: 115.9 x 115.9 x 4.4 cm / 45.62 x 45.62 x 1.75 in. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ‘UFF cassini 15’, 2009, C-print, signed, dated and numbered verso, edition of 6 + 2 AP, framed, size w/o frame: 108.5 x 108.5 cm /42 3/4 x 42 3/4 in. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ‘cassini 26′, 2009, C-print, signed, numbered, edition of 6 + 2 e.a., framed, size w/o frame: 108 x 108 cm / 42 1/2 x 42 1/2 in. Price upon request
About the serie ‘cassini’ by Thomas Ruff
Ruff’s ‘Cassini’ series was influenced by a selection of images found on NASA’s public website. The result of a four-year space programme on the part of NASA, exploring Saturn and its outer rings, Ruff has transformed the raw black-and-white prints with interjections of saturated colour. He has maintained a keen interest in outer space since his childhood. His 2008 series cassini makes use of pictures of Saturn and its satellites that were taken by the Cassini space probe, launched by NASA in 1997. These images of celestial bodies, with alternatively abstract and geometrical designs, were created by manipulating the colors and tones of pictures from the Internet.
Thomas Ruff: ‘Negative I, II’, 2016, Digital pigment print, on rag paper, signed and numbered on verso, edition of 40, size: 70 x 100 cm / 25½ x 39½ in. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ‘neg◊bal_01’, 2014, C-print, signed, numbered, edition of 8, size: 27 4/5 × 23 4/5 in, 70.5 × 60.5 cm. Price upon request
Thomas Ruff: ‘neg◊jap_01’, 2014, C-print, signed, numbered, edition of 8, size: 27 4/5 × 23 4/5 in, 70.5 × 60.5 cm. Price upon request
About the serie ‘Negative’ by Thomas Ruff
“Due to digital photography,” Ruff states, “the negative, which I have used nearly every day for more than 25 years, has almost disappeared.” He continues: “The negative was actually never considered for itself, it was always only a means to an end. It was the ‘master’ from which the photographic print was made, and I think it is worth looking at these ‘masters’.” In order to do so, Ruff took a small selection of found sepia images of flowers and, using digital technology once more, manipulated them to resemble cold, blue negatives, not too dissimilar from Anna Atkins’s masterful botanical photograms of the late-19th century. The sheer delicacy of these leaves, flowers and twigs is astounding. Rendered in a ghostly shade of white with a midnight- black background, the chromogenic prints accentuate each and every follicle. Minuscule hairs, vascular tissue, subtle imperfections at the edges of the leaves; these rarely observed details are drawn to the foreground and frozen in place, their twisting bodies no longer resembling recognisable outlines of plants, but something far more alien. It is worth noting that this is by no means an original technique in either scientific or artistic terms – Karl Blossfeldt’s revered portfolio of close-up silver gelatin prints comes to mind – but in no way does that take away from the sheer precision and delicacy of the works.
Thomas Ruff: ‘phg’, 2014, five chromogenic color prints, mounted on aluminum board (Dibond), each signed and numbered on verso, edition of 40, size: each 74 x 58 cm / 29 x 23 in. Price upon request
About the serie ‘phg’ / ‘Photogramms’ by Thomas Ruff
The “Photograms” are glorious yet enigmatic images and Ruff creates them with an elaborate process he devised himself. Whereas Surrealists like Man Ray generated monochrome photograms by placing objects on light-sensitive paper and exposing the materials to the sun, Ruff reimagines the photogram as an entirely digital technique. Using neither physical objects nor light-sensitive backgrounds, Ruff instead programs the vectors of a form into animation software customarily used to make 3-D films. Within that digital environment the form is subjected to numerous virtual light sources of different intensities and colors, resulting in the final image. The operation requires mammoth computing power, and the seven photograms in the main exhibition space necessitated the use of the supercomputer JUROPA at a scientific research center in Jülich, Germany. In his first photograms, Ruff directly quotes a number of historical works, for example, r.phg.05_I (2013) refers to the series ‘Photogenic’ (1946–1955) by the photographer Lotte Jacobi. This attests not only to his respect for his predecessors, but also to his desire to place the new series within the larger tradition of the photogram – possibly because, technically speaking, the two have nothing in common. Ruff’s virtual interpretation of classic photograms suggests an equally radical method of simulating light using calculations based on optics. Common objects such as lenses, rods, spirals, paper strips or spheres are rendered in 3D and placed on or over digital photo paper in a virtual darkroom. Ruff then uses programmed instead of natural light to expose the objects. The huge amount of data involved makes the rendering process barely controllable, so that all the works display random effects. These are zones of chance: visual noise, grain, fuzziness – visual phenomena we closely connect with the analogue image and which in this virtual environment present themselves as the limitations of a purely digital process. Furthermore, Thomas Ruff manipulates the image, experimenting for instance with different lighting conditions, transparency, solarization and generated surfaces (paper, glass, high-gloss chromium) and with colour – which was impossible for traditional photograms. The fact that Ruff is pushing the boundaries of technological feasibility to simulate a historic photographic genre is a comment on the past advent and current decline of modernist Utopias and the related notions of unlimited progress. In the same way he highlights our contemporary “instagram” aesthetics, the permanent creation of an on-the-spot patina for the immediate past.
Thomas Ruff, de David Campany (Auteur), Cameron Foote (Auteur), 2017. – Capture à l’oeil nu de Thomas Ruff, avril 2016. – Thomas Ruff: Works 1979-2011 de Thomas Weski (Auteur), Okwui Enwezor (Auteur), mars 2012. – Thomas Ruff: Illusion parfaite, Quadrillage, France, 2010. – Cruel and Tender. London: Tate Publishing, 2003. – Eberswalde Library: Herzog & de Meuron. London: AA Publications, 2000. – Porträts. Velbert: Museen der Stadt, 1988. – Thomas Ruff. Munich: Goethe Institute, 1989. – Thomas Ruff. Frankfurt am Main: Museum fur Moderne Kunst, 1992. – Thomas Ruff: Andere Porträts + 3D. Germany: Cantz, 1995. – Thomas Ruff Nudes. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003.