David Zwirner is pleased to present work by German photographer Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), on view across two floors of the gallery’s Hong Kong location. The exhibition will provide an overview of the artist’s prodigious career, ranging from seminal early series to a new body of work.
Ruff rose to international prominence in the late 1980s as a member of the Düsseldorf School, a group of young photographers who had studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher at the renowned Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and became known for their experimental approach to the medium and its evolving technological capabilities. Ruff in particular made a radical break with the style of his teachers, establishing a distinct approach to conceptual photography through a variety of strategies, including the use of color, the purposeful manipulation of source imagery—originally through manual retouching techniques and eventually through digital methods—and the enlargement of the photographic print to the scale of monumental painting. Working in discrete series, Ruff has since utilized these methods to conduct an in-depth examination of a variety of photographic genres, including portraiture, the nude, landscape, and architectural photography, among others.
Highly influential to subsequent generations of photographers, Ruff’s overarching inquiry into the nature of photographic representation accounts for not only his heterogeneous subject matter, but also the extreme variation of technical means used to produce his series, ranging from anachronistic devices to the most advanced computer simulators and covering nearly all ground in between. As he has noted, "I always want to take the medium of photography into the picture, so that you are always aware that you are looking at an image—a photograph—so, in the picture I hope you can see two things: the image itself, plus the reflection—or the thinking—about photography…. It is as if I am investigating the grammar of photography."1
On view will be examples from a number of key series including Sterne (1989–1992), Nudes (1999–), Substrate (2001–), jpeg (2004–), Photograms (2012–), Tripe (2018), and flower.s (2018–).
This will be Ruff’s tenth solo exhibition with David Zwirner since joining the gallery in 2000. On the occasion, a new publication on Ruff’s work, featuring an interview with the artist by Okwui Enwezor, is forthcoming from David Zwirner Books, and will be available in both English-only and bilingual English/traditional Chinese editions.
1 Guy Lane, "Thomas Ruff Interview," Foto8 Blog (October 24, 2009), accessed online.
Image: Thomas Ruff, Substrat 38 III, 2008 (detail)