This exhibition joins the work of two German portrait photographers: Thomas Ruff, a pioneer in this genre, and Roland Fischer whose profile in the contemporary German photography movement has risen steadily in the last two decades.
Since the early 1980s Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) has created a substantial photographic oeuvre, in which he draws attention to all fields of contemporary life. It was Ruff’s intention with his Portrait series to create a contemporary form of representation of this genre. At the time Ruff was studying at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, taking on peers, friends and acquaintances from the Academy, or from the Düsseldorf nightlife scene, as sitters.
“Ruff decided on a bust portrait that would be as neutral as possible, in order to foreground the sitter’s face while at the same time avoiding any psychological interpretation. Every sitter would be photographed like a plaster bust, based of Ruff’s assumption that photography only shows the surface of things anyway.” (Matthias Winzen, Thomas Ruff: 1979 to the Present, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 2002, p.180)
Ruff defined specifications for his sitters - wearing ordinary clothes and seated on a stool, they would be photographed with a serious, calm expression on their face. There was no show of feeling, like smiling, grinning or flirting with the camera. These portraits have then been enlarged to larger than life size at over 2 metres tall. These portraits appear confrontational at first, but on closer inspection the ability to study every detail such as the hair, clothing threads and lines of the face, that becomes undeniably engaging.
In 2002 a major exhibition and publication of Ruff’s work was organised by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, showcasing a catalogue raisonné of all works produced since 1979.
Roland Fischer was born in Saarbrücken, Germany, in 1958. Fischer established himself as a conceptual portrait artist in the 1980s, with bodies of work including a tonal series of monks and nuns, and as exhibited at Gow Langsford Gallery, a series of L.A. portraits of women immersed to bust level in monochrome pools.
“These faces, whose features provide us with fragments of a story which is in every case unique, give us no information whatever about California or Californians. The photographs of Roland Fischer are emphatically not anecdotal. Thus it is absolutely not out of any sociological interest, but rather for technical reasons, that he chose to go to Los Angeles. In fact, having conceived the project of photographing in natural light, faces emerging from the water of a swimming pool, he had no choice but to work in a region where the sky is cloudless and the light levels are constant. Or to put it another way, the form permanently imposes its demands on the subject to be photographed. The form, in other words the concept which presides, so to speak, over the work, constantly dictates its conditions.” (Catherine Francblin, Roland Fischer, Pinakothek der Moderne, 2003, p. 20)
Fischer has exhibited extensively, including at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield; and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. A retrospective of his work was organised by the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, and toured both Europe and the United States.