Hardcover with dust jacket, 160 pages, 23 x 30 cm. Text in English, German and French
The source images in Thomas Ruff’s “nudes” series were culled from the sea of pornography that floods the Internet. The artist, who often works with appropriated imagery, manipulated the pictures, intensifying colors, blurring outlines, and greatly enlarging the scale. Some of these images are explicit, but through his manipulation of the material Ruff softens the subject matter. He turns the conventional into something lavish while at the same time the sense of detachment, apparent in most of his work, is amplified. The fascinating thing about these nudes is the way the indistinct tumble of imagery replicates the physical sensation of sex. Accompanying the photographs is an earthy, supposedly fictional, fragment by the controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq. The narrator reminisces about the years when he and his wife visited sex clubs on the Riviera. He writes of "dark rooms where people make love without choosing partners, submerged in the flux of tactile sensation." This is the world of Ruff's most successful photographs, a place where the staginess of pornography is transformed into the realm of pure desire.