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Thomas Ruff

We have the pleasure of announcing our next exhibition, a presentation of new works by Thomas Ruff (*1958 in Zell am Harmersbach/Black Forest). Ruff, who lives and works in Düsseldorf, ranks among the world's most important contemporary artists. He is regularly represented in numerous international galleries and major museums.

In August 2005, NASA launched a multifunctional space probe (Mars Renaissance Orbiter) that successfully arrived in Mars orbit in March 2006. It was equipped with the latest high resolution camera (HiRISE) that would produce highly detailed pictures of the planet's surface, enabling scientists to learn more about the surface, atmosphere, and distribution of water on Mars. Among other things, the objective of these investigations was to find possible sites for future landings. In order to make the pictures, transmitted to earth by satellite, accessible to as many scientists as possible, NASA uploaded the photographs on the Internet.

Since the 1980s, Thomas Ruff has regularly used scientific photographs as source material for his work and he came across the NASA pictures while doing research into the image-generating potential of photography. He was utterly fascinated with the extremely realistic, naturalistic and yet strange photographs of a universe that exists outside the range of conventional human experience. His first step in working with this raw material was to transform the images taken straight down at a perpendicular from the orbiter into a slanted view. This creates the perspective of a traveller looking at the planet Mars from an airplane. The surface of the planet come so close to the viewer that it seems to be quite literally within reach. In addition, Ruff added color to the black-and-white shots in order to emphasize the extraordinary feel of the landscapes but without changing their character. In this way he has come up with incredibly beautiful and incredibly strange pictures. Yet, at the same time, these desert landscapes and craters from a distant planet look undeniably familiar.

Following the Sterne (1989-1992) and cassini (2008/09) series, the ma.r.s series once again demonstrates the artist‘s mastery in exploiting state-of-the-art technology in striking combinations of matter-of-fact documentation and formal elegance. Ruff has always been interested in the immense collective effort that goes into the development of new photographic technologies, and in his latest series, he reveals the aesthetic and substantial quality of images initially intended for a small scientific coterie. Not only does he use the pictures themselves; he processes them to bring out the aesthetic quality of his scientific sources. He invites us to take a fictional voyage of exploration into the beauty of outer space. Given the current debate on the near future of manned space travel for the public-at-large, these pictures seem to prefigure what travellers will one day bring home from their journeys into outer space. [Text: Valeria Liebermann]

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