Thomas Ruff: Photographs 1979 – 2017

Whitechapel Gallery
27 September 2017—21 January 2018

Thomas Ruff (b.1958, Zell am Harmersbach, Germany) began his career in the 1970s as a student at the renowned art school Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Known for taking a critical, conceptual approach to photography, Ruff explores themes as diverse as utopianism, suburbia, advertising culture, pornography and surveillance. From the 1970s to today, Ruff has worked in series, with each body of work making use of different image-making technologies.

Thomas Ruff © 2017 ART.ZIP


The exhibition titled Thomas Ruff is curated by Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick. It is the artist’s first major London retrospective, and includes a number of his most recent works. Organised thematically, it begins with Ruff’s exploration of questions of scale, the cosmic and the everyday. On show in the ground floor gallery is L’Empereur (1982), a sequence of eight images which depict the artist in a range of exaggerated slumped poses with two chairs and a yellow floor lamp. Made while the artist was in Paris, Ruff turns the camera on himself and acts as a prop in a narrative still life. Porträts (Portraits) (1986–91; 1998–), Ruff’s series of passport-style portraits reproduced on a huge scale, reveal every surface detail of their subjects. These are displayed alongside Sterne (Stars) (1989–92), photographs taken by a high-performance telescope at the European Southern Observatory and two additional series Maschinen (Machines) (2003–) and m.a.r.s. (2010–).

The display continues with one of the artist’s earliest series Interieurs (Interiors) (1979–83), which documents rooms inside the houses of his friends and acquaintances in Düsseldorf. The interiors are shot in a detached way, revealing human traces but with the occupants themselves absent. Alongside these are large-scale works from his 2004 jpeg series of pixelated images depicting nature and disaster. In Gallery 9 Nächte (Nights) (1992–96) photographs are presented alongside andere Porträts (Other Portraits) (1994–95), which examine both the technology and imagery of surveillance and policing.

Gallery 8 includes Häuser (Houses) (1987–91), studies of ordinary suburban buildings, devoid of human presence and shot in the style of architectural photography. Alongside these are two series deriving from the types of imagery that might be at home in the suburban bedroom. The nudes (1999–) are blurred images of internet pornography, while the Substrate (Substrates) (2001–) are vividly colourful works deriving from Japanese manga and anime, which have been adapted using computer software. These go on show alongside two recent series Fotogramme (Photograms) (2012–) and Negative (Negatives) (2014).

The exhibition closes on a moment of resonance with contemporary political debates – two series which question the documentary value of press photography. The Zeitungsphotos (Newspaper Photographs), conceived in the early 1990s, reproduce photographs which the artist cut out of German newspapers and weekly magazines. Without captions or headlines, they allude to urgent events which, divorced from their original context, take on opaque meanings. Ruff’s recent press++ (2015–) works make use of retired archival photographs from several decades of American newspapers. Editorial marks, instructions and cropping are reproduced, showing how images from the era of the space race or of Hollywood starlets were retouched.

L’Empereur 06 (The Emperor 06) 1982 C-print 30.2×40 cm © Thomas Ruff



《托馬斯·魯夫》由白教堂畫廊館長伊沃納·博拉維克親自策展,這是魯夫在倫敦的首個大型回顧展,其中包括了他的大量新作。展覽按照主題劃分,並以魯夫對圖片比例的質疑、宇宙空間和日常生活進行的思考作為開端。在一樓展出的《皇帝》(1982)系列由八幅圖片組成,作品中藝術家在兩把椅子和一個黃色落地燈之間擺著各種誇張的摔倒姿勢。藝術家在巴黎創作了這系列作品,他將鏡頭轉向自己並把自己作為敘事靜物中的支柱角色。在《肖像》(1986-91; 1998-)系列中,魯夫使用大畫幅拍攝護照風格的肖像,只求清晰地展示圖中對象的每個表面細節。“我會去掉一切不必要的東西,人們不需要拿著一朵花,甚至不需要表情”,魯夫這樣解釋這些看似平淡卻又雋永的肖像作品。“我想讓肖像回到原點。”與這些作品一同展示的還有用歐洲南方天文台的高性能望遠鏡拍攝的《星辰》(1989-92)、用工廠檔案改造的《機器》(2003-)和將NASA的黑白圖片進行填色的《m.a.r.s.》(2010-)。

展覽還展出了藝術家最早期的作品之一,如紀錄片式地記錄著他在杜塞爾多夫的朋友和熟人住所內部的《室內》(1979-83)。 他鏡頭下的建築內部帶著一種客觀超然的意味,儘管圖中並沒有人在場,卻處處都顯露著人存在過的深刻痕跡。除了這些作品外,魯夫創作於2004年、以像素化圖像描繪自然和災難的大型作品系列《jpeg》也在這裡展出。使用夜視透鏡拍攝的《夜晚》(1992-96)與用警方的圖片生成設備合成的《其他肖像》(1994-95)被放在畫廊9,共同探討監視和監管這個主題時所用到的技術和意象。




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