Thomas Ruff, ‘press++32.08’, 2016, Sprüth Magers

The 'press++" series takes archival newspaper images, mostly related to space exploration and digitally combines the front and reverse of each clipping. The notes, stamps and instructions on the reverse are enmeshed with the photograph, creating a union of text and image. Ruff uses the political tool of photomontage to expose how the layers of information in an archival image are subject to manipulation and change. The subject of this work is a 1946 photogtaph of Allyn Ann McLerie, actress, singer and dancer in her prime during the 1940s-60s.

Series: press++

About Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff uses technological advancements to realize new visual possibilities of photography and question its artistic qualities. “I don’t believe in the psychologizing portrait photography that my colleagues do, trying to capture the character with a lot of light and shade,” he says. “That’s absolutely suspect to me. I can only show the surface. Whatever goes beyond that is more or less chance.” In the manner of the typologies and straight photography espoused by his teachers Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ruff’s best-known series is “Portraits” (1981-85), 60 frontal, identically framed photographs of expressionless men and women blown up to a monumental size. Authenticity and appropriation are of recurring interest to Ruff—he further explored these ideas in “Nudes” (2003), a photographic collection of distorted and enlarged thumbnails of pornographic photographs taken from the internet, and has produced series based on 3-D mathematical renderings, archival images of war and the night sky, and the architecture of Mies van der Rohe.

German, b. 1958, Zell am Harmersbach, Germany, based in Düsseldorf, Germany