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Thomas Ruff | Germany

Jpeg NT04, 2007

C-Print
238x278 cm

Courtesy of Johnen Galerie, Berlin

This art work of the German artist Thomas Ruff is part of the "Jpegs" series, which he began in 2004. The series, named after the format for compressing digitals picture files, is composed of low resolution images which Ruff found on the internet. Ruff's photographs suggest pictures of "the world" in its current guise; not as an individual vision, but as an authorless, generic and collective expression – as media.

The titles Ruff gives to his "Jpeg" photographs, like digital file names, contain a compressed coding that viewers may be able to parse. Jpeg NT04 refers to a group of nuclear test images ("NT").

Ruff enlarges and stretches the internet image until it breaks down in front of our eyes to infinitesimal parts and becomes almost unreal. The deconstruction of the image to its basic graphic unit – the pixel – creates a powerful effect of blurring, distortion and instability.

The image of the nuclear bomb, as presented by Ruff, seemingly attempts to illustrate to the viewers the potential devastating deconstruction and damage that will occur following such an event.

A close view reveals that the work is composed of an infinite number of tiny surfaces of color and shape that are indefinable, like paintbrush strokes on canvas.

Indeed, it is fascinating to compare Ruff's photographs to the works of the Impressionist artists, whose small colorful brushstrokes from which they were composed seemed senseless to those who viewed them from near, while when viewing them from afar, they consolidated and clearly created the desired image ("optical merge").

Ruff, on the other hand, uses a ready-made to create from it an image of a disintegrated world, whose components will never converge to form a complete and coherent image; the processes of dismantling and abstraction lie at the heart of this art work.