Thomas Ruff, born in Zell am Harmersbach, Germany, in 1958, is internationally renowned as one of the foremost living artist in the field of photography and the application of similar new artistic techniques. His work is exhibited worldwide, with recent shows at the Vienna Kunsthalle, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Haus der Kunst in Munich and the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, Belgium. The Mai 36 Gallery has been presenting his work on a regular basis since 1988.
For the current exhibition of two photographic series, Thomas Ruff has once again adopted new techniques: on the one hand, computer generated colour photograms, and on the other, digitally processed vintage photographs with the aesthetic appearance of negatives.
Photograms are black and white photographic images created by placing objects in a darkroom directly onto light-sensitive material and exposing it to light, resulting in the objects being rendered as forms in light and shadow. It is actually an old technique, used by such notable artists as Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray and Arthur Siegel, for instance, and was especially popular at the Bauhaus in the 1920s.
Thomas Ruff now builds these objects digitally in a–so to say–virtual darkroom using a 3D software programme, which allows him to manipulate and arrange them entirely according to his own aesthetic criteria and, above all, in colour. Fully dedicated to the innovative potential of digital image processing, he conveys a new visual aesthetic of sumptuously colourful surfaces – compositionally freewheeling images using highly sophisticated, cutting-edge technology.
Another of Thomas Ruff’s interests is the possibility of inverting images–in other words, producing negatives of them. For this, he uses existing historical images and negatives. This creates an entirely different effect, expressing an emphasis and concentration on compositional aspects. The new group of works he has been creating since this year, titled Negatives, is represented in our exhibition by the series neg♢lal, which is being shown to the public for the very first time. For this series, Ruff digitally reworked old technical shots of aeronautic industry prototypes being tested in the wind canal, manipulating light and shadow and altering the original sepia tone to transform them into shimmering blue images with an altogether unfamiliar and distinctive aesthetic.
Throughout his oeuvre, Thomas Ruff repeatedly addresses the traditions of photography. His Portraits, Interiors and Nudes, to mention just three of his legendary series, have gained iconic status. At the Mai 36 Gallery, he once again presents his take on the history of photography in the form of high-tech and highly artificial reinterpretations. (Text: Axel Jablonski)