Spanning two of the gallery’s spaces on West 19th Street in New York, Thomas Ruff’s exhibition features the world debut of his new series, photograms, alongside his ongoing series, ma.r.s.
The photograms series depict abstract shapes, lines, and spirals in seemingly random formations with varying degrees of transparency and illumination. Their compositions are reminiscent of artistic experimentation with camera-less photography in the 1920s, where objects were placed directly on photo-sensitive paper and exposed to light, creating white or gray silhouettes wherever they made contact. Cherished in particular by Surrealists, such photograms were governed by unanticipated light effects, allowing for the element of chance in the final result. Yet both the objects and the light in Ruff’s “photograms” derive from a virtual darkroom built by a custom-made software program, giving the artist more control over the outcome.
The works in Ruff’s ma.r.s. series, many of which will be on view for the first time, are based on black-and-white satellite photographs of the surface of Mars, taken by high-resolution cameras aboard NASA spacecraft (“ma.r.s.” stands for “Mars Reconnaissance Survey”). Studied by scientists for information about the planet’s geology and potential landing sites for future visits, these reveal extreme close-ups of the planet’s rugged surface, until recently unseen by anyone. Downloading the pictures from NASA’s website, Ruff digitally altered the images, changed the perspective, and added color. The resulting chromogenic prints transform the originals into visual statements that are at once documentary and fictional.
Photography by: Max Noy