David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Thomas Ruff from his press++ series. This will be the artist’s first show with the gallery in London, and his ninth overall with David Zwirner.
In his considered approach to the means and possibilities of photography, Thomas Ruff explores a breadth of themes that is reflected in the range of techniques he employs: analogue and digital exposures taken by the artist exist in his practice alongside computer generated imagery, photographs from scientific archives, and pictures culled and manipulated from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.
The works in the exhibition present a continuation of the artist’s press++ series, which he debuted at David Zwirner in New York earlier this year. They are photographs of archival media clippings from American newspapers across several decades. While the earlier show focused on space exploration, this selection—which features both large-scale and smaller works—reflects a broader variety of themes, and includes cars, car crashes, and Hollywood stars.
Ruff scanned the front and back of the original documents, which he has been collecting over several years, and combined the two sides. Interested equally in the subject matter (and any touch-ups) on the front of the paper and the words, stamps, signatures, and smudges on the back, he thus created seamless montages of image and text, in the process compromising the integrity of the former as well as adding relevant context. The overlap causes each side to lose its intended information and merge into a new image altogether. As such, the often disrespectful treatment of press pictures by newspaper editors becomes obvious, as text, cropping, and retouching can all fundamentally change the original document.
press++ continues Ruff’s long-standing interest in the deconstruction of the image and the new structures of photography following digital technology. It relates to earlier series by the artist including Newspaper Photographs (1990-1991), in which images were sourced from analog newspaper prints, and jpegs (2004-2007), where he used digitally disseminated photographs. The new works further recall the emergence of photomontage in Germany in the 1920s, where it was employed by Dada artists as a potent and subversive political tool. Ruff’s digital composites, however, are not concerned with the often fragmented and surrealistic effects produced by these art historical precedents, but with the treatment of the photographic image when it is redistributed and re-archived. As layers of information coexist seamlessly, the idea of a source becomes increasingly obsolescent and the image acquires even greater agency. The information of the press image is lost in favor of an image of its own artistic value.
Born in 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach, Germany, Thomas Ruff attended the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1977 to 1985. Since 2000, his work has been represented by David Zwirner. Previous solo exhibitions at the gallery in New York include press++ (2016), photograms and ma.r.s. (2013), Thomas Ruff (2010 and 2007),New Work (2005 and 2003), l.m.v.d.r. (2001), and nudes (2000).
On view December 10, 2016 through March 12, 2017, will be a major survey of Ruff’s works spanning his entire career at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. The exhibition was first presented at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Ruff was recently selected as a finalist for the Prix Pictet photography’s award and his work will be featured in a group show at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London in Spring 2017.
The artist’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent venues internationally. Earlier this year, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (in collaboration with the 2016 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival) presented Object Relations, a solo presentation of Ruff’s work featuring over thirty large-scale photographs from his ongoing series. In 2014, Thomas Ruff: Lichten was presented at Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent. Consisting of five series by the artist spanning the 1970s to the present day, the exhibition traveled to Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. In 2012, a large-scale, comprehensive survey was presented at Haus der Kunst in Munich. Other recent solo exhibitions include those organized by LWL-Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (both 2011); Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg, Germany; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (all 2009); Műcsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany (both 2007).
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.; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; 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 Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent. He lives and works in Düsseldorf.