Thomas Ruff at David Zwirner
German photographer Thomas Ruff continues his “press++” series of photo composites, first exhibited in New York earlier this year, at David Zwirner’s London branch this Autumn.
Displaying a collection of archival press photos from American newspapers across a number of decades, the exhibition explores the paradoxical reign of, and yet disregard for, the image in popular culture and media.
Featuring car crashes, planes, rockets and Hollywood celebrities, Ruff has scanned the front and back of original cuttings and layered the two sides to create a single new image. Employing the method of photomontage used by artists in 1920s Germany, the composite reveals the peripheral scribbles, dates, stamps and smudges usually confined to the unseen back of the document, desecrating the original image yet elevating the importance of the contextual markings to the interpretation of the image itself.
Furthering Ruff’s perpetual interest in the deconstruction of the image and our changing relationship with photography through the evolution of analogue to digital technology in picture creation, the pieces utilise digital methods yet have the retro, tangible look and feel of analogue images through their ink scrawlings and remnants of physical handling that would have been the norm of 20th century newsrooms. The themes are continued from earlier works by the artists including Newspaper Photographs (1990-1991) where pictures were taken from analogue newspaper prints and jpegs (2004-2007) where he used digitally disseminated photographs.
With his work having been the subject of solo presentations at prominent venues internationally, the photographer seems to tap into our modern day anxiety regarding the loss of tangible memories from handwritten messages, printed photographs, and hardcopy newspapers and magazines to make way for intangible digital images that can easily be manipulated, deleted or stolen. His exhibition also questions the sacred nature of the image, the usual crisp display of a photo overturned where we see Eleanor Whitney’s face scrawled across with pen, a car crash coldly described in typed text beneath the vivid picture of crushed metal and evidence of the irreverent cropping, cutting and manipulation of photos by journalists to fit their means revealed.
A striking and innovative new take on the deconstruction of the image and the nature of photojournalism and art itself.
Thomas Ruff: New Works is at the David Zwirner Gallery from 18th November until 5th January 2017, for further information visit here.