Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958)
Chromogenic print; 8 ft. 10 in. x 11 ft. 11 3/8 in. (2.69 x 3.64 m)
Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift; Marlene Nathan Meyerson Gift, in memory of Andrew H. Golkin; Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation Gifts; Neil C. S. Hirsch Gift; and Marian and James H. Cohen Gift, in memory of their son, Michael Harrison Cohen, 2006 (2006.92)
Thomas Ruff is interested in how technology colors our perceptions. During the 1980s, he became known for his large-scale portraits of fellow students at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. These huge pictures deliberately assumed the neutrality of mug shots or passport photos and, by extension, evoked the brightly lit world of surveillance in which his subjects were raised. Following the first Gulf War, he used a night-vision camera to bathe banal views of Düsseldorf in the unearthly green glow of CNN's real-time footage of the conflict.
Titled jpeg to indicate the digital picturesanonymously created images downloaded off the Internetfrom which they are derived, Ruff's newest works greatly expand the matrix of individual pixels in low-resolution files. The perceptual effect of this transformationfrom the size of a computer screen to the grand scale of history paintingsis that the pictures seem to fragment and explode before our eyes, trailing off into a seemingly infinite progression of tonal shifts from pixel to pixel and in every direction. The disquieting result is that the iconic image of the attack on the World Trade Center seared in collective memory becomes ungraspable, fugitive, slippery, almost aqueous.