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The appropriate behavior of Thomas Ruff

November 1, 2010

zycles 4065, 2009, by Thomas Ruff

I’ve been thinking about how the various 20th century picture making genres have been re-imagined by current artists. There are a few perky Germans who are doing a particularly energetic job of this. I’m thinking of Thomas Ruff (b.1958). In college, Ruff began with architectural interior views and graduated with portraits. He went to the head of his Dusseldorf class, taught by Hilla and Bernd Becher. I never got a chance to hear the two legendary teachers speak. I wonder if they really intended to spawn such a feverish troop of imitators? Anyway, Ruff has expanded the typological architectural intentions of his teachers to include landscapes, still life, figure, abstract, micro and macro photography and various conceptual works. Ruff has done it all. He has generated much of this large volume of art by appropriating existing imagery. Appropriation is the art of taking a previously created image and making it your own. It used to be called plagiarism. At some point in history, maybe beginning with Warhol‘s love of Cambell’s soup, artists took possession of readily available images for “art’s” sake. The legalities of such behavior remain mired in uncertainty. The above picture is a computer generated rendering of a mathematical curve. You may see a similar depiction on your own computer, they are called screen savers. Ruff ups the beauty quotient by printing them absolutely huge and in saturated colors. Actually, that is the formula for almost all his art. His favorite picture source is the internet and working with images ranging from NASA space pictures to porn, he has been gleefully copying and tweaking internet content for years.

Jpeg by Thomas Ruff

My graduate school mentor, Ben Lifson, exhibited his internet porn collages to little fanfare in Hartford a few years ago. I could only conclude that he didn’t print them big enough. I recall them as being quite saturated.



One Comment leave one →
  1. gregory thorp permalink
    November 13, 2010 6:08 am

    frank its good to see this walking/stalking by you locally. I know its a challenge to give over to that unstructured
    mission, the canine sniffing out, right here in The Commonwealth. And yet, you really must do it. it’s your “city” –

    Also you can get a student to be a driver/ go-fer. “I need to walk for 30 minutes here and not worry about my bookbag
    or car – be back here in 30 minutes..” Maybe even walk with NO equipment.

    I think we need these times to keep sharp. not by looking at other peoples work, but your own looking.

    We know i solve this in Ashf by being subject oriented (if it rains i know where to go), but i know i’m right
    to encourage you to claim your eye/activity locally. you have a permit and an audience. gregory

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