20 September 2014 – 11 January 2015

Thomas Ruff. Lichten

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf is presenting an exhibition of works by the German photographer Thomas Ruff (b. 1958, Zell am Harmersbach), a leading figure of the Düsseldorf School of Photography. ‘Lichten’ shows examples of five of the
artist's series, covering the last 35 years, from the late 1970s to the present: from a semi-documentary approach to a post-digital photographic strategy, from natural to virtual light.

The exhibition is centred on two new series by Ruff: ‘Phg’ (Photograms, started in 2012), a virtual simulation of the classical genre
of the photogram, and ‘Negative’ (started in 2014), in which the artist reaches back to photography's roots in the 19th century. In addition, the exhibition presents excerpts from ‘Sterne’ (1989-1992), ‘Nächte’ (1992-1996) and his first series, ‘Interieurs’ (1979-1983). Technical considerations, rendered in images of stars at night, infrared shots of city suburbs and domestic still lifes, provide a political and social perspective on the status of images. In its historical span, the show extends beyond the limitations of analogue photography with the seemingly limitless possibilities of contemporary image production.

Instead of photographing our daily reality, Ruff focuses on portraying the realities of photography. His working process is based on the methodology of what was called a "scientific artist". In each of his series Ruff uses the medium of photography to undertake a systematic analysis through which social, political and aesthetic aspects of image-making are reflected, and thus also the history of Modernity. The question of the nature of light, still not fully explored, is fleshed out as the show’s leitmotif: in each of the series light assumes a different function, ranging from the gentle documentary illumination of home décor in post-war Germany in Interieurs to the relation of space and time in Sterne, via an artificially rendered artefact in the photograms.


Furthermore, one of Ruff's ‘phg’-series is produced in collaboration with the Jülich Research Centre in North-Rhine Westphalia. By stretching the power of the scientific institution's supercomputers to their limits, Ruff’s works may also be interpreted as indirect portraits of machinery. At another level this collaboration between an
artist, a museum and a science centre represents a new model of cooperation between the arts and the natural sciences.


An exhibition of S.M.A.K., Ghent, realised in cooperation with Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
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The exhibition is produced with the support of the Kunststiftung NRW.
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