Kunsthalle Düsseldorf open a new show this weekend of the German photographer Thomas Ruff. 'Lichten (lighting)' will bring together work from the last 35 years spanning his career from the late 1970's to the present day. A student of Berndt Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Ruff was best known for his interior and portrait photography in his early career but went on to question the 'truth value' in his documentary. He would go on to take a more political stance in the 90's with images exploring reportage and surveillance during the Gulf War before abandoning the traditional image almost entirely in favour of digital, composite image-making and photomontage.

As the title of this exhibition suggests, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf explores light within Ruff's work from the natural, the manipulated to the virtual. At the heart of the exhibition are two recent groups of chromogenic print work phg (2012-present) virtual simulations of the classical genre of the photogram, and Negative (2014 ongoing) in which the artist returns to the origins of photography in the 19th century. 

The large-scale series phg has been much exhibited in the last couple of years and demonstrates Ruff's desire to create a "new generation of the photogram" which he defines as a kind of "Pencil of nature...a very vague photography where you can't recognise things very clearly but you recognise something" (Aperture. Summer 2013). 

Also on show in Düsseldorf are works from Sterne (Stars, 1989-1992), Nächte (Nights, 1992-1996) and a selection from Ruff's earliest series Interieurs (1979-1983). It is always nice to see the latter get an airing, there is a seductive simplicity in his interior details - the pastel ceramic tiles, stainless steel work surface and spiky cactus or the antiquated cabinet with its horses and ducks. Ruff photographed his friends houses but, ultimately, gave this particular series up when they began to redecorate and lose the post-war features that so interested him.

The exhibition has been produced and designed in close collaboration with Ruff and will not only provide a great introduction to the artists career for the uninitiated but also a progressive look at the artists current practice. A must if your in Düsseldorf this Autumn/Winter.


'Thomas Ruff: Lichten' runs from 20 Sep - 11 Jan at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.

The exhibition has toured from S.M.A.K, Gent.

You can find a rather nice interview with Ruff in Summer 2013's Aperture here:



AuthorSacha Waldron

I only became aware of this exhibition in the last few days and unfortunately it closes at the weekend but Aaron Rose’s lush sun-kissed shot of Coney Island, currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York are, even at this late stage, worth ruminations.

Rose began photographing New York’s seaside resort Coney Island in 1961. Swarms of beach-goers are captured in this tanned, sweating, bikini-clad leisure melting pot but the viewer can pick out subtle interactions and private competitive moments. A man sits on the beach staring out to see as his rotund lady friend stands behind him, hands on hips, her eyes seemingly closed to soak up the rays. A mad-hatted lady seems to have been captured and startled by Rose’s lens. She looks directly at him, her nose protector and straw crown render us a folk mask from an exotic festival or ritual. In a rare posed shot, a young body-builder, hands proudly on hips, is captured in a full-frontal display of muscle and bicep. As he shows off, behind him we see a couple lying on a towel mid-embrace. Their skin is much paler, they have of course perhaps been too busy for sun-bathing but an odd detail is the heavily tanned and bronzed left arm of the male. The colour like a sleeve.

Rose was one of the earliest photographers to use C-print paper and chromogenic processing, the colours he amped up were the skin tones, of the heat and human perspiration. 70 images are on display at the Museum and this is, strangely, the first time they have ever been displayed as a collection. Rose has been a New Yorker is whole life but was largely ignored by the art world until the mid 1990’s by which time he had already produced over 25,000 images, each printed only once. He was asked to exhibit as part of the Whitney Biennial in 1997 which, in a sense, launched his photography career. For Rose, the process of making the image is as important as the finished product and he uses skills learnt during a brief period in commercial photography combining them with the, at the time, emerging new technology of chromogenic colour film. Rose pushes the boundaries of the film, increasing the speed and grain to produce highly textured prints that are baked and glowing, smelling of Soltan and the fried onions of a calorific Coney Dog. 

AuthorSacha Waldron