Thomas Ruff, neg◊stil_07, 2015, chromogenic print, 11 5/8 × 8 7/8 inches (29 × 22 cm), ed. of 8 © Thomas Ruff
Thomas Ruff’s photography suggests the possibilities of his chosen medium, as he might use digital manipulation for one subject and antiquated darkroom techniques for another. Ruff works in series, creating defined bodies of work whose subjects include empty domestic interiors, appropriated interplanetary images captured by NASA, abstractions of modernist architecture, three–dimensional computer–generated Pop imagery, and obscured pornography. Ruff’s portraiture series of the early 1980s (his first to receive critical acclaim) featured groupings of large three-quarter portraits like so many passport photos; their enlarged scale offered a startling level of legibility. Though these, like many of his photographic series, seem to beg a sociocultural interpretation, perhaps the most constant feature in Ruff’s career is his disavowal of such a reading. Instead Ruff focuses on aesthetics and process, building an eclectic oeuvre not defined by genre, method, or theme, but rather by stark imagery, relative conceptual seriality of subject, and the clever subversion of the printed image.
Thomas Ruff was born in 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach, Germany. From 1977 to 1985, he attended Staatliche Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf. Recent solo exhibitions include “l.m.v.d.r.—thomas ruff,” Museum Haus Esters, Haus Lange, Germany (2000, traveled to Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin; and Galeria Estrany De La Mota, Barcelona); Chabot Museum, The Netherlands (2001); “Photographs 1979 to Present,” Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden–Baden, Germany (2001, traveled to Museet for Samtidskunst, Norway; Museum Folkwang, Germany; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Artium Centro–Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo, Spain; Museu Serralves, Portugal; Tate Liverpool, England; and Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Poland, through 2004); “Identificaciones,” Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2002); Hans–Thoma–Museum, Germany (2003); Busan Metropolitan Art Museum, South Korea (2003); “Neue Arbeiten,” Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin (2004); “Les Oeuvres de la Collection Pierre Huber,” Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Switzerland (2004); Sprengel Museum, Germany (2007); “Jpegs,” Moderna Museet, Sweden (2007); Mücsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest (2008); “Thomas Ruff. Schwarzwald. Landschaft,” Museum für Neue Kunst, Germany (2009); “Thomas Ruff. Stellar Landscapes,” Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Germany (2011); Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012); “Lichten,” S.M.A.K., Belgium (2014, traveled to Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Germany); and “Object Relations,” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2016).
Ruff currently lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany.