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Photographic series from the past 20 years.

The comprehensive exhibition of works by Thomas Ruff (*1958, lives in Düsseldorf) at K20 focuses on photographic series from the past twenty years, for which the artist, one of the most important protagonists of contemporary photography, hardly ever picked up a camera himself. For his often large-format images, he instead used found photographs from a wide variety of sources.

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Thomas Ruff, tableau Chinois 03, 2019 (c) VG Bill-Kunst, Bonn 2020

The exhibition therefore not only offers an overview of Ruff’s work of the past decades, but also of nearly 170 years of photographic history. The image sources range from nineteenth century studio photography to machine-made photographs of distant planets, from post-war press photos to propaganda images from the People’s Republic of China. In each series, Ruff explores the technical conditions of photography by examining these highly varied pictorial worlds: the negative, digital image compression, or rasterization in offset printing. At the same time, he takes the afterlife of the images in archives, databases, and on the Internet into consideration, thus formulating highly complex perspectives on the photographic medium and the world that has always been photographed.

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Thomas Ruff, Retusche 03, 1995, (c) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student in the class of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography which is evident in all the workgroups within his multifaceted oeuvre and determines his approach to the most diverse pictorial genres and historical possibilities of photography. In order not to tie his investigations in the field of photography to the individual image found by chance, but rather to examine these in terms of image types and genres, Thomas Ruff works in series: “A photograph,” Ruff explains, “is not only a photograph, but an assertion. In order to verify the correctness of this assertion, one photo is not enough; I have to verify it on several photos.” The exhibition at K20 focuses on series of pictures from two decades in which the artist hardly ever used a camera himself. Instead, he appropriated existing photographic material from a wide variety of sources for his often large-format pictures. 


(Text from Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen)







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