Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958). Nacht 2 I. 1992. Chromogenic color print. Gift of Dr. Mathias Boehringer. © 2017 Thomas Ruff/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Germany

Inbox: Thomas Ruff

May 20–June 10, 2014 The Museum of Modern Art
  • The Museum of Modern Art, Floor 1, Museum Lobby

Thomas Ruff has been testing the limits of photography for more than two decades, using a variety of methods to complete over a dozen separate series. The Museum recently acquired several photographs that represent some of his most important achievements.

For the series l.m.v.d.r., of 2000, Ruff was commissioned to photograph newly renovated buildings by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; the photograph here shows the Villa Tugendhat, in the Czech Republic city of Brno. Ruff’s manipulations of the picture by digital and other means complicate the notion of a documentary image.

In the early 2000s, Ruff turned his attention to the exponentially increasing number of images circulating on the Internet and began to make a group of works, including Jpeg tr01, without using a camera. Downloading low­-resolution images from the Internet, he enlarged them to monumental scale, greatly exaggerating the pixilation of the files to produce near-abstract pictures. Photographic detail and sharpness are lost and attention is focused on the surface of the image, on the ordered geometry of the pixels that constitute it, and on their shifts in color. In the past few years, Ruff has been using 3D computer programs to make photographs. Based on renderings of mathematical curves, zycles 7044, which is printed on canvas, blurs the lines between photography, drawing, and painting.

Ruff insists that his photographs capture only “the surface of things.” Indeed, through all his series, various and variously produced, he works to illuminate the conditions that determine photographs as they are made­—a focus that calls into question the notion of photographic truth.

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